Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Girl on the Train (2009)

The Girl on the Train (André Téchiné)
French Title: Le fille du RER

Dubbing the two halves of The Girl on the Train circumstance and consequence only tempts the film’s audience to utilize common logic within the context of the film's vaporous contraption, which is a narrative that left turns, right turns, u-turns, and jumps in and out of situations exactly like life. As a matter of fact, there is actually no puzzle to solve, no mystery to unravel, and no mess to unspool.

Téchiné's connected characters, Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne), the eponymous girl on the train, Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), the tattooed wrestler who indefatigably courts Jeanne and eventually becomes her boyfriend, Louise (Catherine Deneuve), Jeanne's mother who had an erstwhile romance with Jewish advocate lawyer Samuel (Michel Blanc), appear in and out of each other's lives, completely un-designed by any intelligent force. If the subtitles of the two halves of the film have any relevance at all, it is only to elucidate the film's underlying conceit, which is about Jeanne's overblown lie about being mugged by anti-Semitic hooligans while on the train which led to much public exposure, and to detail what happened before the lie and what happens after the lie, nothing more.

The film’s narrative is snatched from the headlines of the newspaper, about a girl who conjures a hate crime incident that was blown out of proportions, and hatched by Téchiné into a collection of moods loosely spun together by the conveniences of fate and human nature. Thus, Jeanne’s daily routine of rollerblading through the streets of Paris to look for work to going home with the persistent greetings of her mother to find better job opportunities, say, a secretarial job in the law firm of Samuel, is abruptly interrupted by Franck, a sullen-looking young man whose demeanor betrays his affinity for hopeless romanticism. The carefree disposition of Jeanne, as punctuated by how she rollerblades or commutes completely oblivious of her surroundings, morphs gradually as she becomes more and more involved with someone or something, turning into something more brazen yet restrictive, even suffocating.

Consider this particular montage in Jeanne and Franck’s budding romance, where we get only glimpses of an internet conversation, infrequently cut to detail the progression of the video conference, starting from the two being completely clothed, then a top off, another article off, and the rest falls into the audience’s already enticed imagination. More than exemplifying the expanded bounds of sexual relationships in the digital age, the sequence spices it up with foreboding, an unexplainable sense of mischief and danger in the steaming eroticism. Never have I seen internet sex depicted with both arresting frankness, and the effect is quite stirring: a mixture of being seduced into their pixelated seduction and of being forewarned of the brewing pixilated love affair. Simply, Téchiné inflicts tension with astounding precision.

Even in the most genial of situations and surroundings, Téchiné’s astute sensibilities expand moods, further possibilities and consequences, and evoke mysterious undercurrents. There is always a sense of things not being right, not what they seem, and that there is more to Téchiné’s filmmaking than what you can see, hear, or even feel from the moving images and sounds he so efficiently conjures; that the film is hardly about these pertinent portions of its characters’ lives, or even about the nagging bigger picture of a national insecurity that was momentarily exposed by an insignificant girl’s irrational decision to lie. It is all that and more of that, and as the film exchanges perspectives, from the volatile and emotional motivations of Jeanne to the calculated machinations of Samuel, his son, and son’s wife, we are exposed to a matrix of human relations --- cultural, social, political and whatnot --- that governs lives that can only be experienced and not explained.

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