Train of Shadows: The Specter of le Thuit

An elaborately rigorous ruse purporting to re-examine and reconstruct a home movie shot in 1930 shortly before the filmmaker's mysterious disappearance, "Train of Shadows" uses fake found footage to reflect on the power of the imagination and of light and shadows in shaping the way we view things. Almost entirely without dialogue, this rarefied, perhaps overextended, exercise is purely an item for experimental fests. While the film reportedly will carry an explanatory text on its opening reel, this was missing from the print shown in Cannes, and instead was read before the screening.

With:
Juliette Gaultier, Ivon Orvain, Anne Celine Auche, Celine Laurent, Simone Mercier, Carlos Romagosa, Lola Besses, Rene Flory, Marc Montserrat.

On Nov. 8, 1930, Paris lawyer and amateur cineaste Gerard Fleury went walking to look for the right light to complete his film shot around the lake in the Normandy village of Le Thuit. He was never heard from again. The home movie he shot three months earlier shows his family and household staff at Thuit Chateau. The summery footage of them walking around the grounds, playing croquet and tennis has been scratched and damaged by water during the years since it was shot, causing great variations in the image quality.

Catalan director Jose Luis Guerin sets up a convincing hoax. He intercuts the “original” with what appears to be additional, superior-condition B&W footage on the same locations, and then adds color scenes that scrutinize what was taking place around the people while Fleury’s film was being shot. As the interplay between past and present increases, the film becomes more intriguing, but also more repetitive.

Guerin’s prime fascinations here include the play of light, reflections, natural filters and the elements. Water, wind and rain are involved to great effect in creating an illusion of the spectral presence of people and events from the past. Renoiresque poetic simplicity runs through the images, such as boys’ ties flapping in the breeze, Fleury’s daughter on a garden swing or Fleury himself rowing out onto the mist-covered lake where he is last seen.

Train of Shadows: The Specter of le Thuit

Spanish

Production: A Grup Cinema Art/Films 59 production. (International sales: ICC, Barcelona.) Produced by Pere Portabella, Hector Faver. Directed, written by Jose Luis Guerin

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Tomas Pladevall; editor, Manel Alminana; art direction, Rosa Ros; costume design, Isabel Caellas; sound (Dolby Digital), Dani Fontrodona. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 13, 1997. Running time: 81 MIN.

With: Juliette Gaultier, Ivon Orvain, Anne Celine Auche, Celine Laurent, Simone Mercier, Carlos Romagosa, Lola Besses, Rene Flory, Marc Montserrat.

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