The Girl on the Train -- Film Review

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PARIS -- Andre Techine's many admirers will not be disappointed by his latest offering, "The Girl on the Train," but they might be hard-pressed to define it.

Ostensibly the movie is, in the words of one of the main characters, "the story of a lie," but as always with this director, the pleasures reside in the fine detail rather than the broad sweep. Art house audiences will be well rewarded. The film plays in April at the annual City of Lights, City of Angels French film festival in Los Angeles.

Techine's starting point is a true story that raised a storm in France five years ago when a young woman announced that she had been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack on a Paris suburban train, creating a media uproar that drew in even the head of state, only for the affair to be revealed as a fabrication.

A first-rate cast is set on this -- at first sight -- unpromising material, with Emilie Dequenne as the girl, here named Jeanne; Catherine Deneuve as her workaday mother, Louise; and Michel Blanc as the successful lawyer Bleistein, a former flame of Louise with whom Jeanne seeks employment.

The movie is divided into two halves, entitled "Circumstances" and "Consequences," though this is misleading because the movie is anything but schematic. The first half deals mainly with a burgeoning love affair between Jeanne and Franck (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a would-be professional wrestler, while in the second we are drawn more into Bleistein's world and that of his son Alex (Mathieu Demy) and fearsome daughter-in-law Judith (Ronit Elkabetz).

Techine makes no attempt to analyze Jeanne's motives or draw conclusions from her action on the state of French youth today, the volatile nature of the media or the current threat or otherwise of anti-Semitism in France. He is as interested in the secondary relationships as much as the plot points: Louise's hesitant renewal of relations with Bleistein (both have been widowed), Judith's estrangement from Alex, a bond formed between Jeanne and the couple's 13-year-old son.

This makes for a relative dispersion of the points of interest, but the movie is held together not simply by Dequenne's fine portrayal of a young woman searching for herself and drawing a blank but by the force of Techine's attachment to his characters, the fluidity of his style and his characteristic blend of lightness and gravity. The presence of Techine regulars Deneuve and Blanc (and Alain Sarde, for the score) lend a sense of continuity with the director's previous work, with no sign of a lowering of standards.

Opened: March 18 (France)
Production: SBS Films, France 2 Cinema
Cast: Emilie Dequenne, Catherine Deneuve, Michel Blanc, Ronit Elkabetz, Mathieu Demy, Nicolas Duvauchelle
Director: Andre Techine
Screenriters: Andre Techine, Odile Barski, Jean-Marie Besset
Based on the play by: Jean-Marie Besset
Producer: Said Ben Said
Director of photography: Julien Hirsch
Production design: Michele Abbe
Music: Alain Sarde
Editor: Martine Giordano
Sales: UGC
No rating, 105 minutes
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