Man on the Train Movie Review
Plot-wise, very little actually happens. Or, rather, small things pile up: As Milan takes up residence for a week in Mansquier's dowdy-yet-noble country house, the two share chit-chat about their pasts and their plans. But unlike My Dinner With André, the conversations have their feet on the ground and a sense of humor (Mansquier proudly notes that "not one pupil was molested in 30 years on the job" as a teacher). Milan plots out his Saturday heist with some hesitance, and we learn that Mansquier has his own anxieties to work through: He has a triple bypass planned for the same time as well. Students, relatives, and mistresses pass through the country house, and it slowly becomes clear that each man wants the other's life: Mansquier's house is the home Milan never had, and the rootless life of Milan is what Mansquier has always lusted for.
Director Patrice Leconte gives us this emotional dance in chill blue backgrounds - the better to see Hallyday's careworn face and Rochefort's aristocratic profile. It's giddy fun to see the aging Rochefort try on a leather jacket and say, "My name is Earp, Wyatt Earp" in a thick French accent, turning his index finger into a gun barrel. Hallyday, better known in France as a pop singer, gets by with a sleepy-eyed, smoky-voiced performance that explores the precise point where Manesquier both annoys and attracts him. There's a book to be written about the scene were he teaches Manesquier to fire a gun as they talk about poetry, rife with lessons about irony, friendship, and, sure, homoeroticism.
It's Leconte's sole flaw as a director in playing up these parallels too heavily at times. Toward the end, he forces certain lines into his actors' mouths or uses props in dual fashion to emphasize how the pair's emotions are lashed together, as if the audience might not get it. And though the ending threatens to be a melodramatic, too-pat ending, Leconte edits it to create a lyrical, enduring coda. Which might not be the manliest way to make a buddy movie, but it makes for a great movie about being a man.
Aka L'Homme du train.