Unhappily Married and on a Low Road

I want to be far away as possible from the “Audience of One” Trump show this week.

In my DVD collection I found the 2004 French film “Red Lights.”

The film allows me to escape the never ending Trump Dystopia .

“Red Lights” cinematically  scrutinizes the passive-aggressive human personality while interspersing the soundtrack’s repetition of excerpts from Debussy’s “Nuages.”

Excerpted from New York Times – Stephen Holden 9.3.2004

The brilliant, sinister French thriller “Red Lights,” which opens today in New York, is a twisty road movie in which every sign points toward catastrophe.

As night falls during the journey of Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin), and Hélène (Carole Bouquet) Dunan, an unhappily married couple on their way from Paris to Bordeaux, the highway takes them into descending levels of psychosexual hell.

Red Lights II 8.24.2020.jpg

Antoine, a mousy, balding insurance salesman who suggests a dilapidated version of the 60’s James Mason, hates his job, and whines out loud that he wants to “live like a man” and “be free.” He complains to Hélène, a sleek, far more successful corporate lawyer whose success galls him, that’s she’s too consumed with work. The Dunans are headed south to pick up their two children from summer camp. But even before they leave Paris, the tension between them hangs in the air like stale, sour static with nowhere to escape.

Mr. Darroussin’s depiction of Antoine as a glowering textbook example of passive-aggression is so uncompromising that Antoine often infuriates you. One way he vents his hostility toward Hélène is by secretly drinking during the trip. As you watch him tanking up at rest stops and stoking his resentment while she waits impatiently in the car, your sympathy for him ebbs, and you want to taunt him as a gutless, drunken milquetoast busily destroying himself. Yet the marriage is not lost. There are signs that a core of loyalty still exists between the two.

As Antoine finds himself stuck in crawling traffic, with episodes of gridlock, “Red Lights” reminds you of Godard’s “Weekend,” and Claire Denis’s “Friday Night,” movies in which traffic jams are disquieting metaphors for something bigger. Antoine quickly succumbs to road rage, which escalates the more he drinks. Against Hélène’s wishes, he impulsively turns off the highway onto a darker route, and soon they are lost.

“Red Lights,” adapted from a Georges Simenon novel set in America, sustains an appearance of realism even while embracing symbolic and surreal elements. Its eeriness is enhanced by its soundtrack’s repetition of excerpts from Debussy’s “Nuages.” Above all, it is a chilly study of an uncomfortably common breed of male paranoia. A major reason the marriage has turned rancid is that Antoine feels himself less than an equal partner. And with a sly, malicious humor, the film dramatizes his alcohol-fueled rebellion, which precipitates a grisly solution to his masculinity crisis.