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aka - Homme Du Train, L'
France 2002
Directed by
Patrice Leconte
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Ruth Williams
3.5 stars

Man On The Train

Synopsis: Milan (Johnny Halliday) descends from a train at a deserted station. With a face that speaks of a life hard lived, it is clear that he is up to no good. In a chance meeting with a retired poetry teacher, Manesquier (Jean Rochefort), he is deflected temporarily from his original path. Through the kind insistence of Manesquier, Milan spends the rest of the week in the older man’s tumbledown mansion. Here they revel in the romantic notions of their respective lifestyles, however they both have their own date with destiny and all the longing in the world won’t change that.

Patrice Leconte has made an impressive array of films with Man on the Train clocking in at number nineteen. Here, he purposely borrows from, and pays tribute to, the genre of the Western, a technique that works well with the characters we meet on the screen. A retired poetry teacher? Yes, one who secretly loves Westerns and is fascinated with his leather jacket wearing, gun-toting guest. It takes Milan a while longer to warm to his host, but when he does, the friendship that develops is both unusual and believable. Who hasn’t wondered what it would be like to live a life opposite to what we already know?

Manesquier, as played by Jean Rochefort, is the kind of older man you would be happy to have as your next-door neighbour. He may live an ordered life, however when we meet him he is totally over being respected and respectable, much to the surprise of Milan and especially to his sister. It seems the two lead actors were equally suspicious of each other at the beginning of the film as are the characters they played, warming to each other over the making of the film. This gives their relationship a touch of authenticity that may not otherwise have occurred, and adds a depth to their final parting. You get the feeling that these men would have been quite happy to spend their remaining days together, sharing their thoughts and impressions over long breakfasts and late night drinks. The beauty of their friendship lies in the fact that in only a matter of days, they were able to see beyond each other’s physical appearance, to an appreciation of their shared humanity.

Leconte took a punt with the ending here and you’ll have to judge its success for yourself. It seems to come out of nowhere and, just as perplexingly, lead nowhere. Not one to be put off by endings, I enjoyed this film very much - the look, the feel, the music and the two actors who inhabit this story with such finesse.




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