Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train [DVD] (1998)
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An ill-matched group of mourners congregate in Paris to catch a train to the funeral of painter Jean-Baptiste Emmerich. They include Emmerich's highly strung nephew, Jean-Marie (Charles Berling), and his estranged wife, Claire (Valéria Bruni-Tedeschini), Francois (Pascal Greggory) - a young man who taped conversations with the painter towards the end of his life) - and his young friend Louis (Bruno Todeschini), and Emmerich's former lover, Lucie (Marie Daems). Various tensions surface over the journey, and continue to bubble at the funeral and wake, which are presided over by Emmerich's twin brother, Lucien (Jean-Louis Trintignant).
Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train marks a change of genre and setting after Patrice Chéreau's last film, the lurid and sweeping historical drama La Reine Margot (1994). But here too he gives us a story of familial violence and emotional extremes. The train-takers in this classy French drama of extended family relations are the friends, relatives and ex-lovers (of both genders) of the deceased Jean-Baptiste (Jean-Louis Trintignant plays both the dead painter and his brother), a depressive Parisian painter, fond of Francis Bacon, and a conduit, he sometimes thinks, for the voice of Satan. The first section gets good mileage from putting contrasting and sometimes squabbling people in a confined space to see what happens. Mostly they out themselves as troubled types (there are problems with drugs, illness, failing and new relationships), because they're like that anyway, and because their dealings with the exploitative old painter haven't helped. Like most dramas of family life in times of crisis, especially the French ones, it's a pageant of dysfunction, maybe given a touch more colour by the bohemian setting.
As the film continues, the cast swells to include other relatives and friends who arrive at the funeral at Limoges. The film partly resembles Festen, in that a familial get-together occasions the unveiling of secrets and lies. But compared to Festen, the revelations are less shocking, if only because the ramparts of respectability are very shaky from the word go. Chéreau's visual style has its handheld moments (though it's never as austere as Festen), but there's a classical rhythm to the revelations, some of which emerge in powerful set pieces. The bust-ups feel necessary, and they usher in a more upbeat ending, of which the transsexual Viviane (Vincent Perez) is the guardian angel. Viviane seems to stand for the possibility of leading a more authentic and inventive life. --Peter SwaabSee all Product Description
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A minor painter, promiscuous heterosexually and homosexually, has died. He was a manipulative user of people throughout his life and he's taken this last opportunity to exact emotional tribute from friends, family, and former lovers. He has died in Paris, where he fled to escape any involvement in the family shoemaking business in Limoges, but he is to be interred in the family plot back in the provinces. His Parisian mourners catch the Limoges train, and for the first section of the film, find themselves trapped in the confined space of a couple of carriages where they are forced to greet or ignore one another. They are all carrying emotional baggage, the legacy of their memories of and scars caused by the painter. There are animosities aplenty, there are sexual jealousies, drug dependency, and emotional and mental health problems to be unpacked and thrown in one another's faces.
Arriving at Limoges, they will meet up with the family who got left behind, the provincial cousins, and the twin brother of the dead man who hovers at the graveside like a spectre. He has been cursed with carrying on the family business, until it goes bankrupt and he is left with a huge house and its store of curses and memories. The train passengers will quit the huge necropolis in which the funeral takes place, head to the family home, and several will spend the night there, exposing more pain and more wounds.
This is an enigmatic film.Read more ›
Half of the film is set on the train from Paris to Limoges, where the funeral is to take place and close to where Chereau was born, so I presume much of the setting is derived from personal knowledge. Indeed, the only worthy extra on my DVD is a text interview with Chereau in which he admits that the film has many autobiographical elements: “In fact, I’m in it all over the place.”
With half the film on a train, there is thus a lot of hand-held camerawork involved. The viewer plays a part by adopting the camera itself and thus overhearing snippets of conversations, all of which help us to build up a portrait of both the deceased and of his mourners: his friends, his family, his lovers and his enemies. The conversations are interspersed with a taped interview of the deceased, who has strong opinions on some of the characters involved.
If the first half of the film is spent on the train getting there, the second is set at the cemetery itself, apparently one of the biggest in Europe (like a marshalling yard for the dead), and at the resulting wake. This is not a laugh-out-loud comedy, nor is it sentimental slush, but rather a drama with a mean and cruel streak, just like the deceased Jean-Baptiste himself.Read more ›
I would recommend giving it a wide berth unless you are unnaturally happy and want to curb this