The Man on the Train (L'homme du train) Reviews
a tad too "quiet" for tonight though a quietly enthralling watch it was. ("quietly" funny too)
This is a great french drama about two men unsatisfied and regretting their lives. Milan (Johnny Hallyday) is a grizzled con (ala Charlie Bronson) looking for one last score, and Manesquier (Jean Rochefort) is a retired literature professor scheduled for a triple-bypass surgery, who wishes that he had lived a more exciting life.
As I get older, I can identify with this movie more than maybe a younger viewer, but I highly recommend this movie, if you get a chance to see it.
it's poetry.. mediocre poetry
(2002) The Man On The Train
(In French with English subtitles)
A stranger with the intentions of robbing a bank comes to a small town and then gets befriended by a retired schoolteacher who allows him to stay with him when one or the other start liking what the other person is doing!
Non- Besson or non action, no suspense, almost plotless, but a carefully designed character study with some meandering conversations between two men who start off as being completely the opposite!
3 out of 4
I have spent the weekend away. For the better part of seventy-two hours, I was surrounded by people pretending to be someone else. Very large men wearing Blue Sun T-shirts and yellow-and-orange knit hats. Faeries. Stormtroopers. Time lords. Starfleet officers. Jareth and Sarah. One woman in a Western ensemble topped (literally) by a rather impressive hat with an actual model train on tracks around the crown. And I think what we all had in common was the idea that whatever-it-is is just more [i]fun[/i] than who we are day to day. Even people who are relatively content with their lives nonetheless have moments now and again where they think, "Yeah, but what if?" The very, very lucky get to make a living one way or another playing what-if, such as actors and writers. But for most people, even the amount of what-if at a con or ren faire is beyond their reach, and what-if stays in their heads.
One grey morning, Milan (Johnny Hallyday) steps off the train in a drab little French town. He goes to a pharmacist in search of aspirin, and there, he encounters Monsieur Manesquier (Jean Rochefort). Manesquier is a retired teacher of poetry who lives in a decaying old manor at the age of town and still takes in occasional students. Milan is a criminal. On Saturday morning, Manesquier will be going in for heart surgery, and Milan will be robbing a bank. Manesquier invites Milan to stay at his house, since the village's hotel is closed for the off season. Though one rather wonders when last this town had an on season. The two men bond, however improbably, and share history and dreams of the future. It turns out Manesquier has for forty years dreamed of robbing the bank where he has an account, and Milan ends up teaching Manesquier's student (Olivier Fauron) a lesson about a novel he himself has surely never read. Possibly never heard of.
Neither are really equipped to live the life they dream of. When Manesquier attempts to stand up and be tough, it turns out the guy he's ready to get into a squabble with was one of his students twenty years earlier and can still recite poetry at him. Milan is able to fake out the student into believing that he knows what he's talking about, but Manesquier's mistress, Viviane (Isabelle Petit-Jacques), isn't fooled. She tells Milan that he's the kind of man who just likes stirring other people up. And yet he is enchanted by Manesquier's pipe and slippers. Indeed, he had never worn slippers before, he says. There is a certain peace he can summon there which he seems never to have had before. Whereas Manesquier has known nothing but peace and dreams of a little adventure, just once before he dies. There is no way to know how long Milan had dreamed of peace, but it isn't hard to imagine Manesquier cashing his paycheck for forty years, imagining just taking all the money instead and fleeing to the Bahamas.
There are several dozen ways to spin such a story, and screenwriter Claude Klotz and director Patrice Leconte have chosen a quiet one, even when there is shooting. I was particularly struck by a moment when Manesquier is preparing dinner, and he and Milan are shown in alternating shots, the left side of the screen dark when Milan talks and the right when Manesquier talks. There is a scene wherein Milan has gone to buy bread for Manesquier, and while the woman behind the counter (Véronique Kapoyan) asks everyone else if they want more than they have asked for, as Manesquier complained about when sending Milan out, but she looks at Milan and did not. It's seemingly minor, but both men are aware of its significance. However, they don't drive it into the ground and assume that we the audience can spot it for ourselves. Just as we can spot the importance of Milan's taking up Manesquier's pipe at the end of the boy's lesson. Milan is stoic; Manesquier cannot stop talking. But there is a connection, perhaps stronger because of that.
What if? In the end, that is the thought which remains. What if? Milan says that Manesquier was brave for standing up to the loud young men at the pinball machine, even though it turned out there was no confrontation. He was prepared for a confrontation with two men far younger and stronger. He said that he went for a wild two weeks in Paris after his mother died, the first time he'd ever really let himself free. It rained, the kind of serious rain which shuts people in hotel rooms--or in movie theatres. It really seems as though each man has been living an imaginary life all these years. Both men lived more in their heads than in their day-to-day lives. Manesquier has his sister (Edith Scob) and Viviane. Milan has Luigi (Jean-François Stévenin) and various assorted lowlifes. But Manesquier lives alone. Milan arrived in town by himself. If he lives anywhere, we don't know where it is. And yet each man is locked in place in his own way. Wishing he could be someone else.