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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent movie of paths not taken
On a cold weekday a single passenger gets off the train at a French village. The hotels are closed for the season, but he meets an elderly retired school teacher who offers him shelter. The first man is Milam (Johnny Hallyday), a tough, middle-aged criminal who plans to rob the village's bank on Saturday. The other is Manesquier (Jean Rochefort), an educated, aging man of...
Published on 25 July 2007 by C. O. DeRiemer

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16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly interesting French flick
Not a lot happens and it has a pointless ending. I enjoyed it as I didn't fidget and it had a short running time (about 80 minutes excluding credits). It was an insubstantial, though happily, unpretentious film.

I've seen much better French films (Death in a French Garden), but I've seen much worse (The Pornographer, The Piano Teacher). I would not recommend...
Published on 8 Nov 2007 by BS on parade


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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent movie of paths not taken, 25 July 2007
By 
C. O. DeRiemer (San Antonio, Texas, USA) - See all my reviews
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On a cold weekday a single passenger gets off the train at a French village. The hotels are closed for the season, but he meets an elderly retired school teacher who offers him shelter. The first man is Milam (Johnny Hallyday), a tough, middle-aged criminal who plans to rob the village's bank on Saturday. The other is Manesquier (Jean Rochefort), an educated, aging man of limited means who still occasionally takes in a student to tutor. He will have a triple by-pass heart operation on Saturday.

Manesquier soon learns why Milam is in town, and appears to accept this without judgment. As the days go by toward Saturday, Milam finds himself reading books from Manesquier's library, asking to wear a pair of slippers in the evening, accepting a pipe of tobacco to smoke. Once Manesquier is late and a young pupil shows up at the door. Milam takes the boy in and leads him through the assignment on Balzac. "I'll be your teacher today," he says, although he has never read Balzac. He does an excellent job of it. Manesquier tries on Milam's black leather jacket and holds the gun he finds in Milam's luggage, one of three. He visits the barber shop and asks for a haircut, something between just out of jail and soccer player. He asks Milam to teach him how to shoot, and wishes he could help in the robbery. Both men, so different from each other, accept each other for who each is. Each recognizes a longing to have led a different kind of life than what he has; in fact, to have led the kind of life that the other has led.

Saturday arrives. Manesquier goes to the hospital for the operation. Milam meets two accomplices and goes to the bank for the robbery. The conclusion of the movie is mysterious, elegant, sad and satisfying. Both men find, in a way, their new lives.

This is a movie where, for me, all the pieces fit together. Rochefort and Hallyday are excellent; both are actors who don't need dialogue to express a point. Although the movie is about paths not taken, it also has a great deal of wry humor. Manesquier is a man of few illusions, as is Milam, but he also is able to look with amusement at himself and at their situation in life. I think this is an outstanding movie. I can also recommend Leconte's Monsieur Hire, The Widow of Saint-Pierre and Ridicule.

The DVD picture and audio are all they should be.
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96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful film, 5 Aug 2003
By 
R Turner (Reading, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
By chance, a retired teacher meets an almost retired gangster:clash of two parallele lives? No, love at first sight of each other's mystery. Each envies the life of the other, especially the teacher! I can easily understand you feel like robbing a bank or killing someone after a lifetime in the classroom. The camera work, sometimes, films the two heroes like in a spaghetti western. Johnny Halliday, the gangster, reminds me of Clint Eastwood when he is not in action but simply thinking.(close-up on the metallic blue iris) He is the man of few words but his rough presence is so powerful!. (Probably due to 40 years of successful pop concert) Jean Rochefort, the teacher, is a lovely excentric man who, like all of us, wishes to have two lives at least if not nine. It is also rare to see a small provincial French town, worts and all. For example the silly mannerism of the typical sale assistant in the baker's shop.
I would recommend the film for its effective humour, the stunning performance of the two actors, for keeping the interest of any spectator without sex, car chases or guns...Well, there are a few shots but you don't know whether they are abstract or real. A wonderful film, full of humanism
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49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quiet delight, 28 Sep 2006
This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
L'Homme Du Train is a quiet, subtle film about the accidental friendship between two very different men.

At first there does not seem to be much of a story to be told in this film but this is deceptive. The film delivers great performances from the two leading men, Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort. There are no shocking thrills as in American cinema and yet the film is a thriller. It also manages to be a character study of two very different men. Hallyday is a bank robber (and potentially violent) and Rochefort a retired schoolteacher. Each man secretly desires the other mans life.

What kept me watching was the quietness of the film - the director obviously felt no need for background music. When no one speaks, the film is comfortable with silence. The story speaks for itself with no need for extra assistance from background music. The major and minor characters such as the bakery assistant are compelling to watch.

This film is well worth viewing and is a good example of how American and French cinema differ. This film could have been a loud, violent and visually spectaclar thriller and yet Patice Leconte has directed a more intelligent and sophisticated story which leaves the viewer with a feeling of satisfaction. The resolution of the film is ingenious and imaginative.

A sublime film!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You watch too many thrillers.", 23 Aug 2007
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
L'Homme du Train is one of Patrice Leconte's best films, playing nicely to his strengths and never outstaying its welcome thanks to a tight running time. An arthouse success outside France but a disappointment in its home territory, it's a wistful look at life's disappointments and missed opportunities seen through the unlikely friendship of Johnny Hallyday's ageing bank robber checking out a small town bank and Jean Rochefort's retired schoolteacher who watches too many thrillers as each man sees in the other the life they could have lived had they only had the courage to try. The former monosyllabic and increasingly cautious, the latter unguardedly talkative, this odd couple make an engagingly credible friends, united by their own rapidly approaching dates with their respective fates.

In many ways its almost a small-scale modern-day Gallic working of Hugo Fregonese's melancholy 1954 Civil War Western The Raid, which saw Van Heflin's Confederate tempted to settle in the town he has come to destroy given a French thriller makeover, even retaining some Western motifs in Rochefort's Wyatt Earp fantasies. But while the ending is never in any doubt, one of the chief delights of the film is the unexpected turns it sometimes takes, never more than in a delightful scene in a bistro where Rochefort decides to take on some bad-mannered troublemakers against Hallyday's advice only to find things turning out very differently from what both men expected. Even scenes you'd expect to be played for comic disaster turn out quietly triumphant, such as Hallyday teaching one of Rochefort's private lessons for him - and actually turning out to be good at it despite never even reading the book under discussion.

It's a small film, but one that never feels like a chamber piece, and even if it slightly overplays its finale as each man briefly gets their wish, its small pleasures and genuine affection for its characters more than compensate. Sadly, unlike the unsubtitled French DVD, beyond a trailer and a good 2.35:1 widescreen presentation Pathe's release is barebones and devoid of extras, but the film itself is reason enough to buy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of French cinema, 23 Jan 2009
By 
Mr. S. A. Brown "yentilsale1" (Kilmarnock, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I found this a very interesting piece of French cinema. Essentially the plot revolves around two men (Jean Rochefort and Johnny Halliday) who each have a daunting experience on the horizon which may result in their death: an operation in Rochefort's case and a bank heist in Halliday's. The bulk of the film consists of the two men contemplating their lot, regretting the paths they've chosen and seeing merit in the life led by the other.

Naturally, a film of this nature lives and dies by its dialogue and the dialogue in L'Homme Du Train certainly doesn't disappoint. The film is full of the wonderfully observed perspectives on life which are a trademark of French cinema and the two performances from Rochefort and Halliday manage to carry the day.

It's by no means a thriller (despite the bank heist) and the plot is threadbare, but there's enough depth in the dialogue and enough quality in the performances to keep most people interested.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well crafted character based film, 4 July 2010
By 
Ernie (Kent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
L'Homme Du Train revolves around a middle aged stranger who enters a provincial French town, and after arriving on the late train can't find a place to stay. He meets a local retired teacher who kindly offers him a place to stay for the night. The teacher is intrigued by the stranger, who seems to represent everything he wishes he could be, confident, tough, mysterious, and good looking. As the men share each others company, they soon develop a fascination for each others lifestyle, the stranger reveals he is actually a professional bank robber who is no longer excited by his risky occupation; the retired poetry teacher on the other hand craves to have some excitement in his dull life.
Overall, it's a beautifully acted and well written story of two older men dealing with regret. The dialogue is both witty and tender, and the performances from Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday are superb. The well paced story takes its time exploring each of the characters, and the result is convincing story with compelling characters. If you're a fan of French cinema then 'L'Homme Du Train' is an unmissable film.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars L'Homme Du Train, 8 Sep 2003
This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I originally saw this at the cinema, and I very much enjoyed it, a film contrasting a dark brooding side with the banality of regional life. The cinematography is typically French just the colour angles and everything. I would say if you like Harold Pinter this will be right up your street the same depth tinged with humanity, humour and honest observation. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good serious film, give yourself an hour free afterwards for contemplation.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trading places!, 18 July 2008
By 
Elodie (Swansea Valley, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
This film could in time become a classic in its genre. Both poignant and atmospheric. A veritable Greek tragedy. Two men, a lonely, retired teacher and an aging burnt out gangster, with a whimsical longing to change places with each other and inhabit each other's lives.

Johnny Hallyday, with his powerful, brooding visage, as you've never seen him. (No longer the aging rock star fearing the loss of his youth), but a dark,intense, taciturn figure. He has neither the energy or the committment to give to his career of crime. A lifetime of being on the run seems to have come to an end when he gets off the train at a characterless little town. He is befriended by a shy, retirng teacher (brilliantly played by Jean Rochefort)and is suddenly exposed to a way of life that formerly was a complete anathema to him but which he now craves. A stable home environment, trust, respect and affection in the community. Continuity and stability. The teacher, however, dreams of a life of excitement and notoriety. Anything to lift him from the eunni of his lonely life. We gradually become absorbed in their lives and become witness to the result of their fantasies and desires, but as you all know, nothing is ever as it seems. This is a very profound film and is worth its weight in gold. I'm so glad I bought it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beguiling film, 27 Jan 2008
This review is from: L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I cannot conclude what the film is about with the exception of regret and kinship.It is simply excellent.Funny, sad, and it explores the great "what if".The two passages that throw the meaning completely are the begining and the end.Someone suggested that the film is about one man not two and what we actually see is the two sides of one character.The end seems to say whatever road is chosen it will still leave roads not travelled.This film would never be made in English or by Hollywood.French cinema does make films with truly adult themes and there must be an audience as I don't think this particularly art house or anything close.A universal human wondering is explored in a way we can all understand.Do give this film a try.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A minor gem, 27 Dec 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
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Like many French films, this one draws in many timeless themes.
The Road Not Taken
We have the issue of the road not taken - the question `What if?' hangs over both the main characters from start to finish. Manesquier has led a comfortable if not entirely satisfying life for half a century in a quiet village. However, he has his dreams, dreams of action. Milan perhaps didn't dream of much until he saw that stability was possible - there were places in the world where doors were left unlocked, and strangers were welcomed.
Opposites Attract
There is also the issue of opposites attracting, and the basic feature of human nature of wanting what we don't have - the-grass-is-always-greener syndrome. Manesquier is intrigued by the mysterious drifter Milan; the more he learns, the more eager he is to adopt his recklessness. Manesquier, on the other hand, has stability and subtle concerns that Milan has not experienced, and which provide a tempting sweetness. The poem Manesquier is teaching his young charge near the beginning of the film warns against complacency in sweetness; Milan understands this, even has he adopts Manesquier's lifestyle so thoroughly as to become the new tutor to the student.
The Odd Couple
Manesquier and Milan are a classic odd couple. One is educated, the other is not. However, the uneducated Milan is not unintelligent, and has a poet's soul. The perhaps-overeducated Manesquier, on the other hand, longs for the recklessness of a cowboy who fires pistols and dresses in leather jackets with fringe. Manesquier teaches Milan to eat proper meals and look for deeper meanings in feelings and poetry; Milan gives Manesquier the experience of firing a handgun, plotting a bank robbery (which Manesquier confesses has been a fantasy for 30 years) and expressing his true feelings toward others.
Little Things Mean A Lot
Manesquier is taken by little things in Milan's behaviour and being. Milan is mysterious, a great change from the changeless pattern of life in the sleepy provincial French village. His leather jacket, his ability to swig cognac, even his vocal patterns - these intrigue Manesquier. The simple things of Manesquier's life - wearing slippers, having a bath, smoking a pipe - are beyond Milan's tempestuous existence, and Milan yearns for more normalcy.
The More Things Change...
At the start of the film, one can be forgiven for believing that Manesquier is the coward, the one resistant or even afraid of change. Yet we come to understand also that Milan, the drifter, the thief, the impervious one, is also afraid to change, even when it is offered freely, as in Manesquier's offer of money instead of the robbery. Milan rejects it. He is as trapped by his life as is the poet Manesquier; ironically, one comes to see that Manesquier is more open to change - his scene in the restaurant attempting to start a fight attests to this, but the courage to change has come late in life, perhaps too late. Manesquier is very brave to take in the stranger Milan in the first place, the first indication that he's ready to change. Yet, things remain the same. Even as Milan and Manesquier grasp aspects of each other's lives (such as Milan shaving his goatee to look more like Manesquier, and Manesquier getting a haircut to look like Milan), things remain the same.
The Essence of French Cinema
It is almost essential to the best of French films that they have enigmatic endings, and this film fulfills that task. Do Manesquier and Milan trade places or not? Both are grasping at hope that seems to be embodied in the other, but neither quite attainable.
The cinematography is a bit grainy and dark, just as the cloud hanging over the characters is likewise grainy and dark. The sets are perfect accompaniment to the characters - tattered elegance for the poet, and stark plain-ness for the drifter. Manesquier is performed by Jean Rochefort, and Milan is performed by Johnny Hallyday, who give perfectly complementary performances, establishing their own identities and then losing them in each other quickly as the drama progresses.
Not much of physical substance happens in the film until near the end; rather, the change is spiritual and psychological, with most of the `action' taking place in conversation and nuanced scenes of metamorphosis.
Director Patrice Leconte has produced a minor gem here.
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L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003]
L'homme Du Train [DVD] [2003] by Patrice Leconte (DVD - 2003)
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