| Patrice Leconte also directed 1999ís
Girl On The Bridge, so I had my hopes up high. Alas,
The Girl On The Bridge is a much better movie than Man
On The Train, which left me saying, ďOh. How opaque. How French.Ē
From the start, the movie feels very much like a Western;
to me, thatís a good thing. A stranger gets off the train
in a small town. Itís reminiscent of Frank Miller stepping
off that noon train in High Noon. The stranger is definitely
a bad-ass, because he has his own theme music, twangy guitar
that sounds like Leo Kottke or one of those guys. And
sure enough, it gets even more Western-y as he wanders down
an empty main street where you can almost feel the eyes peeking
out at him from behind curtains. But then, the spell is broken
when our bad guy moseys into not a bar but a drugstore, and
demands not whiskey but migraine medicine. Oh these modern
Actually, Milan (Hallyday) is a desperado, a bank
robber come to town for the traditional one-last-job. Johnny
Hallyday is a bona fide French celebrity, as I understand
it some sort of prince of Gallic rockabilly? On his way out
of the drugstore, he falls in with Manesquier (Rochefort,
grand old man of French cinema who had to drop out of
Terry Gilliamís snakebit Don Quixote movie), a retired
poetry teacher who invites him to stay at his home. The two
are a study in contrasts. Manesquier is unassuming and knows
it; Milanís Mephistophelian appearance cannot help attracting
attention. Manesquier never carries keys because he never
locks anything. However Milan, who looks like a Central Casting
bad guy, locks the cupboard in his guest bedroom right away.
Why? Because when he unpacks his bags, we learn that heís
Naturally when Milan goes out, his host explores the room,
discovering Milanís Western-style jacket, which he dons while
pretending to be a Laramie gunman in front of the mirror.
When his enigmatic guest returns, Manesquier comments pleasantly
on his long-held secret desire to hold up the local bank.
The men are pretty straightforward with each other; Milan
attempts no pretense about his reason for coming to Smallsville.
Manesquier has no problem with harboring an about-to-be criminal,
regretting only that he cannot be a part of the robbery.
From here, itís a series of pleasant scenes of Rochefort
and Hallyday interacting, as we countdown to Saturday, when
both men have life-changing appointmentsóMilan with the bank
and Manesquier with the surgeon. Saturday gives Leconte another
opportunity to mine stock Western devices, like cutting to
and fro between the preparations for the hospital and the
bank. Watch for a nice scene of holdup men pulling on masks
contrasted with the surgeons in their masks.
Mostly though, itís all character. The two leads are excellent
characters, but theyíre all dressed up with nowhere to go.
The general idea is that each wants to try on the otherís
life, but weíre given no particular reason why Milan might
envy an existence cramming French poetry down the unwilling
throats of pimply adolescents. Plus, the movie has annoying
bits. Thereís an oracular character whoís just too much of
an eccentricity. Also Man On The Train has an interesting
look; think sepia-tone, only done in blues in certain segments.
Sometimes itís blued out, sometimes itís fairly normal color,
and I donít think itís because Leconte got hold of some dodgy
film stock. As near as I can make out, heís telling us something
about Milan the gunman and blue steel, but like I said in
the beginning, ďHow opaque. How French.Ē