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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 35.48%
Average: 19.35%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 3.23%

4 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Man on the Train, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Greg Muskewitz

"Formidable and composed."
5 stars

Another likable quiet film, from France’s spotty director Patrice Leconte, about letting people be themselves and watching, rather than making them be and participating.

Filmed almost always in a cobalt blue, the poetically bittersweet film concerns an aging criminal in town to knock off a local bank, and an older teacher who provides the man a place to stay without questions when the local lodging is closed for the season. The pace, along with its pensive tone, is quickly taken and adhered to; the establishment of the two main characters is applied not as an embellishment, but as something to unfold over the course of time. It is quickly learned that the bank robber, Johnny Hallyday, is a quiet man, patient, but set in his ways, while Jean Rochefort, who still gives literature lessons, is a pent-up garrulous quidnunc (“Apart from needlepoint, I have all the qualities of a young woman from the 20th century”), and wishes to be like Wyatt Earp. Set amidst a twangy score utilizing the pacifying sound of train tracks, the duo becomes an on- and off-screen tag team, discussing and demonstrating their common link of mortality and age, and wishing they were someplace else than where they have ended up. The dual operation of the actors and characters takes a brief period to work into, the notion that the material is to be less exact in its storytelling — meaning less of the basics of exposition, explanation, reiteration — and its reliance on the literary and metaphorical, the less determinant action to take, and not only because of Leconte’s staid non-judgmental observance. Man on the Train may be accused of being slow, and even lacking a greater focus (which I dismiss as a laziness on the audience’s part to attach to the inherent life of these characters without the literature coming across as weighty and pretentious), but it is not disconnected from an overall form. Though Leconte liberally relinquishes a tight-handed hold on the reigns in favor of leaving room for the story to tell itself within its own dimensions and parameters in its own terms, the closer to the end one gets, the clearer the focus and vision of the film as a whole, nuanced and accented in all the right places. It might be debatable between Hallyday and Rochefort as to whom is the lead, or whether there is really any separation, but the performances are irrefragably two of the year’s finest, no matter how early on this may be considered to say such. Formidable and composed, the deepest criticisms reach to a lightweight fall back on sentimentality, not alone on the part of the actors, but also in the clearing of Leconte’s focus and vision, when there is no density left to cloud the wonder with.

[Absolutely to be seen.]

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originally posted: 04/21/04 08:32:39
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/06/10 garx the bear A love story. Not your typical one, but a love story never-the-less. 5 stars
9/22/04 DM A little too slow at times, but intelligent and well-acted 4 stars
8/13/04 r.l. obenchain my kind of movie. slow. thoughtful. with humor 4 stars
6/01/04 Agent Sands Good cinematography, acting, script, & metaphors. It's not great, though. 4 stars
5/10/04 Phil M. Aficiando Somber and thought provoking; well acted if not real-worldly 4 stars
6/03/03 meathole slow but meaningful. well developed relationship between two decent men. 4 stars
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