×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Girl on the Train

Atypically, vet Gallic helmer Andre Techine's latest film, "The Girl on the Train," centers on one of the most media-blitzed events of recent French history: a young woman's invented story about being attacked on a train by black and Arab youths who mistook her for a Jew.

With:
With: Emilie Dequenne, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Blanc, Matthieu Demy, Ronit Elkabetz, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Jeremy Quaegedebeur. (French, Hebrew dialogue)

Atypically, vet Gallic helmer Andre Techine’s latest film, “The Girl on the Train,” centers on one of the most media-blitzed events of recent French history: a young woman’s invented story about being attacked on a train by black and Arab youths who mistook her for a Jew. From this polarizing lie, Techine fashions a brilliantly complex, intimate multi-strander, held together but somewhat skewed by the central perf of Emilie Dequenne (“Rosetta”), whose radiant physicality threatens to eclipse even Catherine Deneuve. Much-awaited pic, bowing March 18 at home, seems poised for a strong international run and solid U.S. arthouse play.

Jobless, freewheeling rollerblader Jeanne (Dequenne) resides in the suburbs — not the ethnically mixed high-rise hotspot of recent French cinema, but a peaceful backwater where her widowed mother (Deneuve) has retreated to cultivate her garden and mind the neighborhood tots. The sole but constant reminder of a larger context is the elevated train passing above the district, counterpointing Jeanne’s carefree rollerblade movements or comfortably carrying her to and from the city.

A highly physical courtship sets Jeanne up in a shady warehouse with b.f. Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), an aspiring wrestler; Deneuve’s expressions are priceless when she’s forced to amicably socialize with her daughter’s tattooed beloved. But violence implodes the couple’s idyllic house-playing.

Jeanne’s desultory search for a secretarial job links her to the family of her mother’s old flame Samuel Bleistein (Michel Blanc), a successful lawyer and leading defender of Jewish causes. His globe-trotting, politically engaged, mismatched brood — boasting an Orthodox ex-daughter-in-law (Ronit Elkabetz), flat-out atheists and everything in between, arguing nonstop in art-filled duplexes and luxury hotel rooms — reps a marked contrast to Jeanne’s experiences of provincial domesticity.

Jeanne evinces little knowledge of or interest in politics. The more the camera captures her from different angles, the more unknowable she appears — sealed off by her Walkman and rollerblades, with an almost animal-like insularity. Once her blissful romance disintegrates into a hail of social and personal blame, however (the cops blast her for her willful naivete, while Franck alleges to have taken to crime to finance their love nest), the only way she can relate to history is to make herself the innocent victim of it. She invents a role from bits and pieces of half-heard conversations and poorly understood images on TV, blind to the implications and consequences of her accusations.

Techine’s choice of Dequenne makes perfect sense of many potentially contradictory elements of his story — Jeanne’s almost unconscious racism, the eagerness with which the press (and the president) jump on the unsubstantiated claim of a beautiful non-Jewish victim of anti-Semitism. Yet, at the same time, the Belgian actress acts as a lodestar whose sheer magnetism upsets the careful equilibrium of Techine’s setup.

Thus, though the emotionally explosive Bleisteins are cannily conceived as foils to petit-bourgeois civilityof Jeanne and her mother, their scenes fail to resonate with the same intensity as simple shots of trains crisscrossing space — failing to bridge worlds that might just as well be planets apart.

The Girl on the Train

France

Production: A UGC Universal presentation of an SBS Films production, in co-production with France 2 Cinema, in association with Sofica UGC1, Sofica Soficinema 5, with the participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star, Le Centre Nationale de la Cinematographie. (International sales: UGC Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Said Ben Said. Directed by Andre Techine. Screenplay, Techine, Odile Barksi, Jean-Marie Besset based on the play "RER" by Besset.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Julien Hirsch; editor, Martine Giordano; music, Philippe Sarde; production designer, Michele Abbe; costume designer, Khadija Zeggai; sound (Dolby/DTS), Jean-Paul Mugel. Reviewed at Walter Reade Theater, New York, Feb. 25, 2009. (In Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, New York.) Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Emilie Dequenne, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Blanc, Matthieu Demy, Ronit Elkabetz, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Jeremy Quaegedebeur. (French, Hebrew dialogue)

More Film

  • The Wolf Hour

    Shanghai Film Review: 'The Wolf Hour'

    Run a finger along any of the surfaces in Alistair Banks Griffin’s sophomore feature “The Wolf Hour,” and it will come up slicked with sweat, grime and the residual soot of the city. It is the summer of 1977,  and it’s hotter than hell. June Leigh (Naomi Watts) perches on the window sill of the [...]

  • The Christmas Gift

    'The Christmas Gift,' 'Guaxuma,' 'King Wah' Win Top Awards at Palm Springs ShortFest

    The Palm Springs International ShortFest wrapped Sunday with top prizes going to “The Christmas Gift,” directed by Bogdan Muresanu, for best of the festival, Nara Normande’s “Guaxuma” for best international short and Horatio Baltz’s “King Wah (I Think I Love You)” for best North American short. The festival is the largest shorts-focused event in North [...]

  • Vortex

    Shanghai Film Review: 'Vortex'

    Official statistics imply that violent crime is close to an all-time low across China today, but you would hardly guess as much from the glut of commercial-leaning crime and gangster movies that the Middle Kingdom is producing and, as often as not, given the accessibility of the genre and the historical pedigree of Asian action [...]

  • Box Office: Toy Story 4 Opens

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Launches Overseas With $120 Million, 'Aladdin' Clears $800 Million

    Disney’s summer box office slate continues to dominate over other studios as “Toy Story 4” launches overseas with a solid $120 million and “Aladdin” crosses $800 million in ticket sales. Disney and Pixar’s latest “Toy Story” entry led international box office charts when it debuted in 37 foreign territories. It also dwarfed the competition in [...]

  • Toy Story 4 Box Office: Pixar

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Dominates With $118 Million Debut

    Disney’s domination over the box office only seemed to strengthen this weekend as “Toy Story 4” easily topped box office charts. The fourth entry in Pixar’s animated series collected $118 million in ticket sales when it debuted in 4,575 North American theaters. While that haul is significantly below expectations – early estimates initially anticipated a [...]

  • Shanghai international Film Festival closing ceremony

    Iran's 'Castle of Dreams' Sweeps Shanghai Golden Goblet Award Ceremony

    China’s top film festival showered its highest three honors on the Iranian film “Castle of Dreams,” hours after American President Donald Trump said the U.S. would on Monday impose “major additional sanctions” on Tehran. The drama about family, separation and keeping one’s promises, collected a trio of prizes on Sunday night at the Shanghai International [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content