Jeanne is a young woman, striking but otherwise without qualities. Her mother tries to get her a job in the office of a lawyer, Bleistein, her lover years ago. Jeanne fails the interview but falls into a relationship with Franck, a wrestler whose dreams and claims of being in a legitimate business partnership Jeanne is only too happy to believe. When Franck is arrested, he turns on Jeanne for her naivety; she's stung and seeks attention by making up a story of an attack on a train. Is there any way out for her? In a subplot, Bleistein's grandson, Nathan, prepares for his bar mitzvah and, through an encounter with Jeanne, experiences intimations of manhood. Written by
André Téchiné's newest film The Girl on the Train is a combination topical expose and sophisticated melodrama. Using a real-life case where Alice (Emilie Dequenne), a girl from a banlieu outside Paris lied about being the victim of a bias attack, Téchiné takes the emotional pulse of hate crimes and finds symptoms of common psychological distress. In other words, it's a love story from the uniquely expansiveand inquiringpoint of view that makes Téchiné France's most fascinating contemporary filmmaker.
The first sight of Alice rollerskating through the streets, thick curly hair surrounding her stolid face, presents a "normal" Téchiné youthcomplex, enigmatic, hypersensitive to the world. Alice's place in the universe, and her politically incorrect actions, recall the troubled boy in the 1987 Scene of the Crime where Téchiné evoked the template of Great Expectations to explore how one character's fortune linked to and revealed a larger, social view of destiny.
Pondering Alice's emotional life when she falls in love with a young wrestler, Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), takes Techine beneath the surface stability of other characters. Alice's mother Louise (Catherine Deneuve) was a nonconformist now settled by maternity and unsettled by encountering an old acquaintance, Jewish activist Samuel Bleistein (Michel Blanc). Techine intermixes these histories and on-going fates; his quick, graceful pace, piercing insight and visual flair are perfectly symbolized in Alice's rollerskating sprees. One is constantly propelled and dazzled.
Alice's heterosexual female story keeps Téchiné several leaps ahead of one's expectationsand especially the intellectualized gay-ghetto preoccupations of his sex-and-psychology protégé Jacques Nolot (Before I Forget, Porn Theatre).
The contrasts between Alice and Louise, Bleistein and Franck vividly illustrate the common effort to achieve satisfaction and strength. For Téchiné, race, class and gender give access to understanding this constant struggle. His post-modern approach, through Dickens, Lean, even the Dardennes brothers (Dequennes is best known for their film Rosetta) remains unsentimental about obdurate human nature. And for those further intrigued by these mysteries of love and character and societyand their authenticityan honorary soundtrack to the emotions Téchiné uncovers in The Girl on the Train can also be found in every track of Morrissey's Years of Refusal.
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