A film director, Jean, his producer, Marc, and his assistant, Lucette, board the Trans-Europ-Express in Paris bound for Antwerp. Once in their compartment it occurs to them that the drama ... See full summary »
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A film director, Jean, his producer, Marc, and his assistant, Lucette, board the Trans-Europ-Express in Paris bound for Antwerp. Once in their compartment it occurs to them that the drama of life aboard the train presents possibilities for a film, and they begin to write a script about dope smuggling. Written by
On board the TEE is 'Elias' (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a paranoid drug dealer on his way from Paris to Antwerp. And in another compartment are his creators; film-makers having a script meeting from which Elias emerges. It's a typical Robbe-Grillet construct, honed from nouveau roman experiments. The purpose of which, as he puts it, is to "assist change by throwing out any techniques which try to impose order or a particular interpretation on events". The result in this case is a parallel universe, on one hand Elias trying to act like a drug dealer and on the other, proceeding according to the whims of his creators. In effect, it becomes a real-time replay of the writing and editing process,
There are those who might regard this as typical French pretension, full of intellectual conceit (it was banned in England for many years), but it's playful, witty and very accessible thanks to a droll script and the great Jean-Louis. And then there's the beautiful Marie-France Pisier with her large inquisitive eyes. She makes an unlikely hooker, but is she? The scriptwriter on the train is played by Robbe-Grillet himself and so establishing that he really is making it up as he goes along. It's beautifully shot in crisp b&w, perfectly capturing the zeitgeist. It would be another twelve years before Kraftwerk created their musical homage to the great train, but it says something about both forms that it would have made the perfect soundtrack.
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