AVANT L’AUBE/THE NIGHT CLERK
France, 2011, 104 minutes, Colour.
Jean-Pierre? Bacri, Vincent Rottiers, Ludmilla Mikael, Sylvie Testud, Celine Sallette, Francois Perrot.
Directed by Raphael Jacoulot.
The Night Clerk is a French thriller, set in a hotel in the mountains. It involves a crime although the persons concerned are not of themselves criminals. It is their behavior after the accident and concealing it which is criminal.
Jean-Pierre? Bacri, always a very strong actor, is intense as the manager of a mountain hotel who despises his son who has had a sports career but has to help him after an accident killing one of the guests. The title character is a young man on parole who has been given a job, works as a night clerk, has met the dead man, is suspected by the manager of knowing what has happened and who is treated particularly well so that he will not reveal the truth. However, when a detective arrives, Sylvie Testud, he decides to set up the young man to take the fall. But the young man is shrewd and realises what is happening to him.
This is more of a character study rather than a thriller, a drama of detection rather than of crime.
1. Low-keyed thriller? Characters, situations? Investigation?
2. The title, the focus on the young man? The manager, his style, the hotel, the routines? The manager’s son and his derogatory remarks about him? The situation in the hotel, the collecting of the wine, the accident? The father helping, the car? The boy being shrewd in understanding what had happened?
3. The locations, driving to the hotel, the beauty of the mountains, the layout of the hotel, the town?
4. The characters and hotel life? The manager and his being busy? His staff? His son and his playing sport? His disappointment in his son? His wife? The job, the son failing, the van, the accident, concealing the body, the wine as the cover, the story, the police investigation?
5. The clerk, his age, out of jail, on parole, his girlfriend? Abrupt manner? Learning how to behave at the desk? Meeting the dead man, having the information? His observing the manager, his being feted, the change, with the manager, brought into the household, the meals, the hotel room, his ultimately being betrayed? His reaction? The discussions with the detective? The truth?
6. The cover, father and son, dependence?
7. The clerk, the manager knowing he knew the truth, favouring him, the details? Talking with the authorities? Planning to frame the young man, letting him go? Caught out?
8. The detective, her investigation, the lies, her shrewdness?
9. The expose, the truth, the resolution, but the film leaving it to the audience to work out what would happen?