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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

What price a life?

Author: etherially from Blue Mountains, Australia
12 January 2008

At a 21st years ago I cringed as a Greek father embarrassed his daughter and all of her friends by speculating on how much she had cost him and whether it had been worth it. In 'Alberto Express' generations of Italian fathers give their sons a sum of expenses which must be recompensed before the young man, in his turn, becomes a father. As a young lad leaving home for the first time, the hapless Alberto receives the pile of crumpled receipts which he must repay, with a sense of deepening dismay. On the eve of the birth of his first child he has a dream. He must, in this night, take a train from Paris to Rome and return to his father the sum of money which is owed. Unfortunately he doesn't have it.

In that state between sleeping and waking, which Joffé seems to inhabit with such ease, Alberto comes to confront his own mortality. This of course, according to the ticket inspector, an old but newly found friend, is not really such a big deal. After all, everybody has to do it sooner or later. An indisputable fact which does not, however, make it any easier.

The Alberto express whirls on through the night, accelerating in accord with Alberto's desperation. A host of characters flashes across the screen as if glimpsed in passing through the train's speeding windows. Whimsical, comic and curious, like all of Joffé's characters, they give one the impression of being in the centre of their own stories. They are beautifully cast and a joy to watch. Sergio Castellitto plays Alberto as an almost Candide like character, a questing innocent abroad in an unfamiliar world. That world has its share of memorable moments. Jeanne Moreau contributes a mysterious cameo that illustrates how even the greatest of empires fall – or are transformed. A tank full of lobsters is released into a lake. Alberto 'liberates' people from their belongings. His ancestors dispute happily about their dues. It is an impermanent world.

In 'Alberto Express' Joffé has managed to convey a feeling of the elusive nature of time, not only in his subject matter, but in its depiction. The feeling of unreality which sets one adrift when traveling at night aptly creates a landscape for Alberto's shifting world. The film, like 'Que la lumière soit' has a Chagall like quality. I had that feeling when rewatching 'Que la lumière soit' recently. Then I found out that 'Alberto Express' is apparently the first of a trilogy which Joffé dedicated to his father and that his father was Russian and Jewish.

Oddly enough, all three films have been dubbed as amongst the best French films that nobody's ever seen. Perhaps somebody will remedy that by putting them out on DVD with English subtitles. It doesn't seem much to ask – especially when one considers how much dross is out there.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Original, witty, and almost surrealistic

Author: rivethead808 from Session 9 (US)
12 May 2005

I cant believe there are no other comments of this film thus far. I originally rented this about four years ago solely based on the fact that Dominique Pinon is in it. Now, to my disappointment, he has maybe a total of five minutes screen time, but the film is still excellent. Basically our main character is about to become a father and what he doesn't realize is the deal that his father made with him to pay back EVERY single debt he ever incurred throughout childhood and beyond, was sincere. The beginning scene with dad and his adding machine is hilarious! Realizing this, he goes on a quest that involves leaving his about-to-pop-any-minute wife behind to see what he can do to either satisfy the debt, or come up with a sly way of getting out of it. He spends most of the film on a train (The Alberto Express, presumably) where he encounters many different personalities, eavesdropping, and ultimately, thieving his way through all the passengers in order to come up with the aforementioned funds. A hilarious romp that includes his dead ancestors coming to him to shed light on the "family tradition" and a wonderful small role as the engineer by the always excellent Pinon. The only thing that makes me give it a 9 instead of a 10 is the fact that it is never really made believable what the leverage is the father has over the son and his new family should he not repay the debt. Other than that, I highly recommend this to anyone that has a dry, dark sense of humor and to those who like strangeness bordering on surrealism. This could almost be a Raoul Ruiz production or even a light version of Bunuel.

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10 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

I Know This Is A Comedy, But Are You Kidding Me?

Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
30 March 2006

I didn't exactly find this "often hilarious" and "one of the year's ten best" as the critics labeled this. Excuse my morality, but stealing from people on a consistent basis to pay off a debt is not funny. Here, it is portrayed as "okay" because most of the robbing victims don't care and the thief is just some poor innocent-looking pathetic victim of strange parents. Huh? What is this....the Menendez brother on the loose?

To make matters worse, "Alberto's" debut is paying back his parents for raising him! Excuse me, isn't that parents do...and for love, not money? More twisted values.

Most of the scenes with "Albert" take place on a train, hence the title "The Alberto Express." This is one train I wouldn't advise taking. It is dumb and an insult to your intelligence.

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2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Castellitto and Joffe= Success!

Author: Film Viewer from United States
14 September 2007

I gotta say, the best work Sergio Castellitto has ever done has been with French director Arthur Joffe (Ne Quittez Pas, Albreto Express, Que La Lumiere Soit). Joffe brings out the best in Castellitto, heck, in fact, he practically discovered the guy!! Thanks to Joffe, Castellitto has emerged as one of the most outstanding actors from Italy, if not in the world. I suggest "Alberto Express" to everyone expecting a child, both men and women. It is a funny, charming, fantastic and exciting story! BRAVO to Arthur Joffe and Sergio Castellitto for making an unforgettable and touching film! If you like their collaboration, then go see "Ne Quittez Pas" (Local Call)!

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