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LíHOMME DU TRAIN/THE MAN ON THE TRAIN

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As generic as its title, Patrice Leconteís film works over a familiar movie conflict: dull conformity versus deviant independence. But that simple formula leaves the veteran director of the brilliant Monsieur Hire space to fill the screen with the gimcracky details, tart dialogue, and shaggy dog performances that make this film as cozy and shot with darkness as the life of its hero, M. Manesquier (Jean Rochefort). The retired literature teacher of a tiny bourgeois village, Manesquier lives out his routines in the shabby family château, unable to make his break for freedom 15 years after his motherís death has freed him from all ties. Until, that is, Milan (French pop-music legend Johnny Hallyday), a world-weary criminal who has just gotten off train and is planning to rob the local bank, bumps into him at the pharmacy. Since the local hotel is permanently off season, Manesquier invites Milan to stay at the château, and as he experiments with his guestís leather jacket and handguns, Milan tries out his hostís bedroom slippers and his snatches of memorized verse. In short, if this Train had arrived from Hollywood (and no doubt a Touchstone remake is in the works), it would be a body-switching comedy. However, coming from Leconte, it remains (until an unfortunate turn toward the mystic near the end) a sublime merging of Rochefortís desperate charm and Hallydayís feral nobility. In French with English subtitles. (90m)


Issue Date: November 28 - December 4, 2003
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