The Girl on the Train, Human Experience Lathered Into a Tone Poem
For better or worse, there isn't a human experience that French director André Téchiné can resist lathering into a tone poem. Tackling a 2004 incident whose sociopolitical ramifications can hardly be ignored—a young Gentile woman set off a media storm by falsely claiming to be the victim of an anti-Semitic attack—Téchiné has his work cut out for him. From a stage play based on this incendiary event in a nation known for extreme jitteriness toward its Jewish citizens, Téchiné has made two films. The one that palpably engages him is the densely populated backstory that mines a bunch of opaque possible motives for Jeanne, played by the enchanting Émilie Dequenne (who made her name in the Dardenne brothers' Rosetta) and sympathetically portrayed as a pleasure-loving screw-up on rollerblades who's desperate for recognition from her loving but coolly detached single mother (Catherine Deneuve) and a boyfriend (Nicolas Duvauchelle) she'd be better off without. Fanciful and emotionally overheated as it is, Téchiné's beguiling first tale gives us more to chew on about the private and public construction of French identity—liar or not, this confused airhead is more willing than most of her countrymen to identify with the Jew as persecuted victim—than does his dutiful, perfunctory dissection of the national scandal whipped up over the incident.
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