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MAN ON THE TRAIN

Review by Chastity Campbell

Starring: Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday
Director: Patrice Leconte
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, Surround
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: November 25, 2003

“Were you a good teacher?”

“Not one pupil molested in thirty years on the job!”

“Well done!”

Film ***

The Man On The Train is a perfect example of what symbolism in a movie is all about. 

No truly good movie is plain and simple; it would just be boring if all of the complex pieces were revealed at once.  The best movies are those that hit you after the credits have rolled.  You immediately want to go back and watch that one scene, that pivotal moment, which seemed so simple in the beginning, but now you realize it tells the whole story.

Jean Rochefort (The Count Of Monte Cristo, Lost In La Mancha) is a very lonely old man.  He is a writer and a teacher of poetry who strikes up a conversation with a man he met in the pharmacy.   The man has just come from the train station and is new to the town. 

Johnny Hallyday is Milan, the mysterious man in the leather jacket that Manesquier befriends in the pharmacy.  He has just come from the train station and has a terrible headache.  Milan is a man of few words, which you can easily see from the way he responds to Manesquier’s continuous diatribe. 

Manesquier has never been the type to try new and different things.  He relies on the orderly functionality of his life to get him through the days.  Milan does what he has to do to survive, and you can see he hasn’t had the easiest of lives.

These two men are given the opportunity to experience a small part of each others’ real lives because Milan needs a place to stay, and Manesquier offers up his guest room.  They get to see into a part of themselves that if nurtured could have altered what their lives were like and who they became.

I enjoyed this movie, which I’m finding is a trend for me with subtitled films.  I don’t necessarily like subtitles themselves, but it seems to me that the symbolism presented in each scene is easier to see and use as a focal point for the film over all if the dialogue is suppressed.  

This film is full of symbolism:  the dark tones and colors surrounding Milan and the soft and warm tones surrounding Manesquier help to definitively separate the two men.  What brings them together are those moments when each steps into the world of the other, and you see that they really aren’t that different after all.  Either one of them could be the Man On The Train you see each and every day. 

Jean Rochefort is a veteran actor with many wonderful credits to his name.   He never seems to portray any one role like any that has come before.  He finds subtle intimacies about each of his characters and brings them forward allowing his own natural personality to be blurred in the process.  That is not to say that you don’t see a lot of him personally in the characters he plays, just that he gives them a life of their own.

Johnny Hallyday, better known for his music, is wonderful as the watchful Milan.  He doesn’t offer much in the way of depth to the character, but he does take the mysteriously aloof angle and runs with it.

Together, he and Rochefort had a wonderful chemistry between them.  Each actor was able to play off of the character flaws of the other perfectly, and without a doubt both men gave 110% to their performances.

I will admit that the ending was a bit confusing for me at first, but I found that revisiting the beginning in my mind helped me put things together quite easily.

The direction and photography on this film were beautiful; the only exception overall was the print quality.  There wasn’t a lot of clean up done for the print itself, and quite a bit of dirt is visible which did detract from the look of the DVD.  

If you don’t mind subtitles, and like movies that deliver on an emotionally subconscious level, then you’ll love this DVD.  

Video **

I wasn’t terribly impressed with the 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen transfer of this film.   The quality was mediocre and contained a lot of dirt, mainly throughout the first half hour of the DVD.  I attribute the visualization of the dirty print to the fact that minimal amounts of color were used.  A lot of dark grays and blues with dulled out whites create a canvas that will definitely reveal flaws.

The colorless scenes did help to set up individual characters and highlight their personalities, but the lack of any definitive color patterns became tiresome after a while.  Too much symbolism can cause more problems than it reveals.

Audio ***

This DVD was mixed in a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround format.  The audio throughout the disk was crisp and clear without any dropouts or mixing problems.  The balance between background sounds, music beds, and dialogue was seamless.

The soundtrack was a very nice mix of music and silence.  Natural background noise is used quite frequently throughout to set the tone for individual scenes.  I would typically find this annoying, but the filming style used works well in this regard.

Features ½*

The only extra features this DVD contained were English subtitles.

Summary:

There are no extras with this disk, and the transfer was a bit dirty.  However the audio quality was extremely nice and the story was very intriguing.   If foreign films are your thing, then grab a copy of this movie on DVD.