Hoteliers


There are two things I like about The Night Clerk (Avant l'aube). First is how it used the recurring shots of roads snaking its way up the mountains not just as a way to flesh out the setting, but also as a visual cue for the crime.

The second, done masterfully, is the ending - eerily similar to Cache (Hidden) in terms of tone, mood and abruptness. While most psychological thrillers pile up clues throughout the film to solve a mystery (in this case, the death of Raphael Cassany), this film isn't concerned about coming up with a resolution that would satisfy its audience and exonerate the protagonist. We already know the roads are all pointing to the right direction: the investigator knows about the dissolution of Arnaud and Julie's marriage (through a shot of them arguing in the snow, with Julie walking away) and about the promotion and the Audi that was given to the night clerk Frederic by Jacques, the hotel owner. (In an interview, the investigator also found out that connection between Raphael and Jacques, with Raphael being a real estate developer looking for hotels to buy out, and Jacques, who had no intention to sell.)

The last scene, where the investigator asks her team to find out who ran the errand to buy wine that fateful night of the accident, is the last piece of the puzzle - as it would implicate the real suspect, the hotel owner's son, Arnaud. But the clincher didn't happen in the film. It made me think that maybe the film is not about the crime itself as it is about the 'fall' of Frederic Boissier - this time, in a more heinous crime of murder - and that the implication of Arnaud, if it happens, wouldn't absolve Frederic. The bitter truth is: Frederic Boissier would spend years in jail. Arnaud would probably be convicted of manslaughter, with his father Jacques as an accomplice, but the film already ended, and we are all left to wonder what will happen. Isn't this the stuff great films are made of: the enduring relevance, the puzzle that itches to be solved longer after the credits ended?