The Lie Detector

Francois Tremblay Patrick Goyette

Francois Tremblay Patrick Goyette

Lucie Marie Brassard

Christof Haussman Peter Stormare

Claude Maria de Medeiros

Judith Josee Deschenes

Hans James Hyndman

(French, English and German dialogue)

Robert Lepage’s sophomore effort, after his well-received “The Confessional,” continues to pursue the theme of the meaning of truth via another intriguing, teasing thriller that, like its predecessor, is set in Quebec City. In this tale of a man suspected of a murder that he can’t remember committing, Lepage continues to express a fascination for Hitchcockian themes, including transference of guilt. Pic should perform solidly in niche outlets worldwide.

Unfolding in 1989, story opens with the troubled Francois (Patrick Goyette) undergoing a lie detector test to determine if he stabbed to death his girlfriend, Marie-Claire, in her apartment. He apparently can’t remember anything about the fatal night, and hopes the test will clear him, but it proves frustratingly inconclusive, and he resumes his normal life under the watchful eye of the police.

Francois is writing a thesis (“Cultural Alienation and Loss of Identity in Political Exile”) and working as a waiter in a smart eatery. Meanwhile, Lucie (Marie Brassard), an actress who lives in the apartment next door to Francois, auditions for the leading role in a film Judith (Josee Deschenes) plans to make about the unsolved murder of Marie-Claire; Judith knew the dead woman and is intrigued by the case. Her screenplay asserts the killer was a rogue cop. (“If you don’t have a good ending, blame it on the cops,” one character notes derisively.)

During her audition Lucie, who is currently appearing in the title role in a stage production of “Hamlet,” is asked by Judith to enact panic. As she does so, Lepage cuts to a subway platform where Lucie screams in panic as someone falls in front of a train. She’s helped by a sympathetic stranger, Christof (Peter Stormare), who takes her home and stays the night. Christof, it transpires, is a refugee from East Berlin who left his wife behind; his work involves the conducting of autopsies.

Another key character is Claude (Maria de Medeiros), the daughter of a diplomat who was Francois’ girlfriend before he met Marie-Claire and who still loves him. All these elements the filmmaking, the continuing investigations into Francois by the police, the strengthening relationship between Lucie and Christof, the enigmatic role of Claude merge into a jigsaw pattern in which early confusions are gradually cleared away. If the conclusion is a bit pat, it’s not so much the solution to the mystery that matters as the journey toward that solution.

Lepage brings off several pleasurable moments of frisson, such as the abrupt transition from the audition to the subway station, and a wonderful moment in which Lucie, dining with Christof in the restaurant where Francois works, falls from her chair, red wine spilling dramatically over her white clothing. Less successful are a few moments in which the director speeds up or slows down the action taking place behind the principal characters.

Goyette, who also appeared in “The Confessional,” evokes Montgomery Clift as the tormented hero who’s not quite sure whether he’s a killer. Brassard, who co-authored the screenplay, is a striking presence as the actress who unwittingly finds herself drawn into her friend’s crisis. Other roles are solidly etched.

Guy Dufaux’s camerawork is up to his usual high standard, and all other production credits are fine.

The Lie Detector


  • Production: (CANADIAN-FRENCH-GERMAN) An In Extremis Images (Montreal)/Cinea (Paris)/Road Movies Dritte Produktionen (Berlin) co-production, in associationwith Telefilm Canada, government of Quebec, Filmboard Berlin-Brandenburg. (International sales: CFP Intl., Montreal.) Produced by Bruno Jobin, Jean-Pierre St. Michel, Philippe Carcassonne, Ulrich Felsberg. Directed by Robert Lepage. Screenplay, Lepage, Marie Brassard, in collaboration with Michael Mackenzie, Patrick Goyette.
  • Crew: Camera (Astral color), Guy Dufaux; editors, Emmanuelle Castro, Jean-Francois Bergeron; music, Robert Caux; production design, Monique Dion; costumes, Luc J. Beland; sound (Dolby), Claude Hazanavicius; line producer, Madeleine Henrie; assistant director, Jacques W. Benoit. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Window on Images), Aug. 31, 1996. Running time: 99 MIN.
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