Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train Review
Jean-Baptiste Emmerich, a painter of some distinction, has died. Although he lived in Paris, he is to be buried in Limoges, saying "Ceux qui m'aiment prendront le train" (hence the title). So friends and family and lovers gather at a Paris station. François (Pascal Greggory) listens to Emmerich's tape-recorded voice. (Jean-Louis Trintignant plays both the deceased Jean-Baptiste and his twin brother Lucien.) Jean-Marie (Charles Berling), the dead man's nephew, and his estranged wife Claire (Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi) are travelling with their daughter Elodie (Delphine Schiltz). Louis (Bruno Todeschini), a close friend of François, has fallen in love with Bruno (Sylvain Jacques), a good-looking young man who is HIV positive. And there's a mysterious young woman, Viviane, who has a secret of her own...
Patrice Chéreau's previous film was La Reine Margot, a large-scale, explicitly bloody historical drama about the Massacre of the Huguenots. Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train is very different, a contemporary black comedy that takes a dysfunctional group of people and watches them combust. (The man is nothing if not versatile: went on to make the very different English-language Intimacy.) As someone who found La Reine Margot more than a little ponderous, I was surprised by Chéreau’s lightness of touch in this film. The first third of the film is set on the train journey. All but two scenes were shot on a real train, using handheld cameras. This part of the film resembles a Robert Altman ensemble piece in its use of the Scope format and overlapping dialogue. You do need to pay attention as Chéreau establishes his large cast of characters and their interrelationships. Once the train reaches Limoges, the camera settles down and lets the actors go through their paces, during the funeral and the wake. Recriminations are made, skeletons fall out of cupboards and secrets are revealed. (One revelation is hinted at in the synopsis above, though I've avoided a spoiler.) It's hard to single out anyone from the cast, as all are excellent.
All but the first Artificial Eye DVD (Time Regained) have had anamorphic transfers, and this is no exception, framed at 2.35:1. A soft, grainy look is due to the original film, much of which was shot in natural light or a close approximation of it. There are some artefacts: the picture has a problem with a long shot of a graveyard halfway through. However, the soundtracks of Artificial Eye's DVDs could do with upgrading. According to the end credits, Those Who Love Me... has Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks, but the DVD has plain DolbY Surround. The dialogue is clearly recorded – vital for a film like this – and there is some use of left and right for ambient sound effects. But you can't help wondering how involving a full 5.1 mix would have been. There are twenty-one chapter stops.
Extras are as usual for an Artificial Eye disc: the trailer and filmographies for the principal cast (the first nine names listed above) and director. There's also a text interview with the director, which is interesting and well laid out in separate pages. I can't really complain about the lack of extras, considering the small market for foreign-language arthouse films in the UK and also the issues involved with recording directors who speak either no or heavily-accented English. Better to concentrate on presenting the film to its best advantage. Picturewise, this DVD is nearly there. Soundwise, there is room for improvement.