L'homme du train Review
In a sleepy little town in the French Alps, a man called Milan (Johnny Hallyday) leaves off the train. Suffering from a headache, he goes to the chemist's and there meets Manesquier (Jean Rochefort), a retired teacher. As the local hotel is closed, Manesquier invites Milan to stay at his house. A friendship develops between them. During the daytime, Milan meets up with some colleagues and plans a bank robbery…
Despite the bank robbery subplot, L’homme du train is not a thriller. Instead, it’s a gently-paced comedy-drama about two men of different ages and from entirely different walks of life, and what might happen if they met. Or if they swapped lives. Manesquier tries on Milan’s black leather jacket and Milan does the same with Manequier’s carpet slippers. Milan stands in for Manequier when the latter fails to turn up to a private lesson. Both men’s lives reach a crisis point at the same time: Milan’s robbery is due simultaneously to Manesquier’s heart bypass operation.
Johnny Hallyday has made films before, but he’s better known as a veteran rock star – a household name in France, like Cliff Richard without the religion, barely known elsewhere. Pairing him with veteran character actor Rochefort works quite well: Leconte makes much of the different ways the two men move and speak and occupy the frame. Leconte also colour-codes his scenes: Milan’s world is bluish, Manesquier’s orange toned.
If I say this is one of Leconte’s better films, you should be advised that I clearly have a blind spot for this director, whose twentieth film this is. I have seen every Leconte film given a UK release from Monsieur Hire onwards, and at the very least have been underwhelmed by all of them. Leconte fans (and there appear to be quite a few of them) should adjust my markings up a notch or two. L’homme du train is a minor-key film that makes a virtue of, in fact insists, on its own inconsequentiality. That’s either a recommendation or a deterrent: you’ll know which one applies to you.