on May 19, 2006 by Sheri Linden
Dominik Moll, whose droll and deliciously creepy "With a Friend Like Harry..." was a hit at the 2000 Festival de Cannes, returns to the fest with this year's opening-night selection, "Lemming," another effective Hitchcockian drama. "Harry" star Laurent Lucas, who excels at portraying an "ordinary" man stunned and fascinated by his own dark urges, tops the strong cast. Less direct or satisfying than Moll's previous feature, the stylishly eerie "Lemming" still gets under the skin with its shifting sense of reality and heart-stopping suspense.

Lucas plays Alain Getty, an engineer of home automation gadgets like the Mini Flying Webcam, a remote-controlled globe propelled by tiny chopper blades. Demonstrating for clients how the MFW can alert owners to a would-be plumbing disaster while they're away from home, Alain instructs his assistant to "start the flood." But the deluge of unsettling events--and non-events--about to descend upon Alain can't be stopped with a stroke of the computer keyboard. Everything, he notes in voiceover narration at the outset of the film, is about to become unstuck.

First, there's the stopped-up kitchen pipe, from which Alain removes a rodent that not only resuscitates but turns out to be a Norwegian lemming. Its unexplained presence in French plumbing is one of several mysteries coursing through the psychological collisions among four characters: Alain; his wife, Benedicte (Charlotte Gainsbourg); his boss, Richard Pollock (André Dussollier); and Richard's terminally unhappy wife, Alice (Charlotte Rampling). Along with the one-eyed MFW and the interloping lemming, Alice is a strange creature staking a claim to Alain's life. After the two couples share a nightmarish dinner together, the bitter and unsmiling Alice insinuates herself into the psyches of the Gettys -- or, as she derisively calls them, the model couple -- through increasingly bizarre and disturbing intrusions.

As one scarred marriage infects another, the shadowy doings escalate to the point where even-tempered Richard's statement "I like you, Alain" has an ominous ring, especially in Dussollier's soothing delivery. Playful Benedicte and hateful Alice (portrayed by two of the saddest-eyed actresses ever to grace the screen) meld in ways both horrifying and erotic, the ground falling away from Alain with every step. The film's energy and focus waver a bit in the late going, but mostly Moll succeeds at creating a sustained foreboding, with stellar contributions from composer David Sinclair Whitaker and d.p. Jean-Marc Fabre. In every frame of this accomplished film, hell lurks beneath the dry humor and smooth, antiseptic surfaces. Starring Laurent Lucas, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling and André Dussollier. Directed by Dominik Moll. Written by Dominik Moll and Gilles Marchand. Produced by Michel Saint-Jean. No distributor set. Psychological thriller. French-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 130 min

Tags: Laurent Lucas, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Andr Dussollier, Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand, Michel Saint-Jean, Psychological thriller, erotic, foreboding, antiseptic, dumor, nightmarish, bizarre, disturbing

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