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Between Paris and Troyes ,an old lady riding on a train disappears....That's the beginning of very strange trip ...A railroad movie ,maybe the first of them all and maybe the only one,as there are plenty of road movies.
Her son (Jean Rochefort) ,helped by his daughter (played by Alain Cavalier's daughter) ,sets off :he will walk the 150 miles between the two cities once he is certain that his mother fell from the train.
This is an offbeat film ,very original;it's not a detective story ,though it sometimes verges on it;it's not a fantasy film though the atmosphere is often eerie ,disturbing ,even threatening.Cavalier superbly uses the landscapes all along the railroad track as his two characters search the bushes ,the ditches ,the tunnels.The farther they go,the unlikelier their attempt seems to come to something.
Cavalier never tells us so,and he does not use any flashbacks either;but Rochefort's character has got something of a child.His harrowing voice crying "mom! come back" when the night falls down on the railway stations and the tracks will drive you to tears.His marriage is on the rocks,his life seems to be an unfulfilled one,and this search has become the true meaning of his life.
On the other hand,the girl's character is cardboard:the clichéd post-68 student,who refuses the Establishment ,we have seen it so many times that we're really fed up with it!All the scenes that deal with "the students life" and the Police "who cannot understand " are sheer rubbish.Fortunately it's only ten minutes :everytime Cavalier returns to Rochefort's pitiful character ,he makes his movie a winner.
"Un étrange voyage" although devoid of dreamlike sequences or flashbacks ,is a spiritual quest.In "le plein de super" (1976), a road movie ,the four lads ,coming back home on a train ,were already questioning themselves.After "un étrange voyage" ,it would be six years before Cavailer made another film:and it was a quest of the absolute,since it was a biography of Saint Thérèse de Lisieux "Thérèse" ,a great success .You should try and see the 1981 and 1986 works one after the other.
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