Man On The Train

French rock 'n' roll icon (yes, there is such a thing) Johnny Hallyday and veteran actor Jean Rochefort deliver a pair of exquisite performances in this charming, ultimately haunting tale of a chance encounter between two very different men. As dusk falls over a small, sleepy French town, a haggard stranger named Milan (Hallyday) steps off the train with...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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French rock 'n' roll icon (yes, there is such a thing) Johnny Hallyday and veteran actor Jean Rochefort deliver a pair of exquisite performances in this charming, ultimately haunting tale of a chance encounter between two very different men. As dusk falls over a small, sleepy French town, a haggard stranger named Milan (Hallyday) steps off the train with a bag full of handguns and a terrible headache. Milan is here on business; on Saturday, he and his cohorts plan to rob the town's tiny bank. While buying aspirin at the local pharmacy, Milan is spotted by M. Manesquier (Rochefort), an aging, elegantly dressed bachelor who once taught poetry at the lycee but has since retired to the cluttered boredom of his late mother's crumbling house. Intrigued by the stranger's dangerous swagger, leather jacket and prison pallor, Manesquier invites Milan home. When Milan inquires about staying on through the weekend, Manesquier happily assents. The tight-lipped Milan has found the perfect spot where he can await the arrival of Luigi (Jean-Francois Stevenin), his unreliable partner-in-crime. His loquacious host, meanwhile, now has someone with whom he can share his thoughts on Chopin, Schumann and all the things he wishes he'd done with his eminently proper, entirely forgettable life. Manesquier also has an appointment on Saturday: He's scheduled to undergo triple-bypass heart surgery, and he's not at all convinced he'll survive the operation. Despite their obvious differences — or rather, on account of them — an odd friendship develops, and each man comes to represent something more than a captive audience or a convenient place to stay. To Manesquier, who says he stopped living long before he got old, Milan is a bold adventurer who's lived his life to the fullest; to Milan, who feels his age and is beginning to have second thoughts about the bank job, Manesquier lives a secure, cultured life of enviable respectability. As the days pass and the fateful weekend draws closer, an even stranger thing happens: Each man begins to absorb elements of the other's identity. While Milan necessarily remains something of mystery — he's primarily an inscrutable surface onto which Manesquier can project his own dreams — Manesquier is a beautifully crafted character. He's urbane, witty, and oddly courageous, a tragic figure who's never pathetic. Tautly directed by Patrice Leconte (MONSIEUR HIRE, RIDICULE), the film is in French, but the excellently translated subtitles retain the wit and flavor of the brisk, at times even hardboiled, original dialogue.

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  • Released: 2002
  • Rating: R
  • Review: French rock 'n' roll icon (yes, there is such a thing) Johnny Hallyday and veteran actor Jean Rochefort deliver a pair of exquisite performances in this charming, ultimately haunting tale of a chance encounter between two very different men. As dusk falls… (more)

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