Man on the Train (L'Homme du Train)
It is rare that a film looks
unflinchingly at a friendship between men without placing sex, money, or
power as roadblocks to overcome. Man on the Train is a
surprisingly beautiful and complex vision of two very different men at
crossroads in their lives. They meet by chance when an aging bank
robber named Milan (played by Gallic rock star Johnny Hallyday) steps off a
train in the sleepy little French hamlet where a retired literature teacher
named Manesquier (Jean Rochefort) has lived his entire existence in the same
house. Both men are coming up on turning points in their life the
upcoming Saturday at 10:00. Manesquier is due for life-threatening
surgery and Milan is going back for one more bank robbery.
polar opposites in most ways -- Manesquier is a compulsive talker who
natters on about anything and nothing, while Milan spends his words
carefully and grudgingly -- each man is exceedingly open to the opportunity
for companionship. They spend a few brief days together in
Manesquier's rundown home, eating, drinking, talking, looking at the stars,
quietly and insightfully exploring themselves and their lives.
find a strange kinship in the fact that they appreciate the other's
lifestyle more than their own. The teacher envies the glamour and
excitement he imagines of the robber's life, while the criminal longs for
the simple pleasures that the scholar has long since lost passion for.
Milan teaches Manesquier how to fire a gun and the older man helps the
robber appreciate little things like slippers and piano. But most
importantly, I think the men become friends simply because they recognize
each other as men of integrity and kindness.
The direction by Patrice
Leconte (Monsieur Hire, Girl on the Bridge, The Hairdresser's Husband)
is stately and considered and beautiful. The acting is spectacular.
Rochefort is able to convey a lifetime of repression and anger in his weary
gaze. Hallyday (who may be a singing hero in his native land, but is
not really known for his acting) is a revelation as Milan, a hardened man who knows he
can't change his nature, but longs to be able to.
Their lives intersect and
cross, yet at the same time they can't deny their own destiny. They
both go forward inexorably to their own fate, but they do in some subtle way
get to experience the other's life. Man on the Train is a
gorgeous reminder to know what you want, but also to appreciate what you
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Posted: July 6, 2003.