Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train

1998, NR, 122 min. Directed by Patrice Chéreau. Starring Donimique Blanc, Roschdy Zem, Vincent Pérez, Sylvain Jacques, Bruno Todeschini, Charles Berling, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Pascal Greggory.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Jan. 14, 2000

Winner of three Cesars (the French equivalent of the Oscar), this is one film that almost has as many words in its title as main characters in its story, which is to say, a lot. Despite the unwieldy title, however, Chéreau's (Queen Margot) film is a vibrant, emotionally charged peek into the lives of a group of friends and lovers as they bicker and romance their way to the funeral of an old friend. Actually, the corpse in question, the artist Jean-Baptiste (Trinignant), seems less a friend, per se, than a source of perpetual dismay and backbiting, who initiates, from beyond the vale, a series of rambunctious and feisty sparring matches between this group of ex-lovers and cohorts. Surely no French artist could ever hope for more. I'll say right up front that if your idea of a fine foreign film is Joel Schumacher's Ted Danson/Sean Young remake of Jean-Charles Tacchella's Cousin, Cousine, then you're better off renting perhaps the dubbed version of La Cage aux Folles, quaffing some house Merlot, and calling it a night. If, however, you're game for some strenuously elliptical fin de siècle madness with a twist of gender confusion and a hint of je ne sais quoi the fuck, then Those Who Love Me … should be to your tastes. It begins, as so many fine Continental films do, in a Parisian train station, as the mourners begin to assemble for their long ride out to the country to pay their respects to the departed. How he died, and under what circumstances, remains cloudy throughout the film; Chéreau is more concerned with the lasting effect the deceased has had on the others, and wastes no time delving into all manner of unsubtle hinting and -- let's be honest here -- extended monologues and outright cat fights inspired by the artist's seemingly amoral lifestyle. During the first 30 minutes of Chéreau's film, he introduces no less than eight major characters, none of whom seem to be making any sense at all. This, of course, forces the viewer to struggle to keep up with the narrative, and for a while it appears that there isn't one at all, but instead a seemingly random succession of pissy, argumentative Francophiles. To wit, Francois (Greggory) is on the outs with ex-lover Jean-Marie (Berling), Viviane (Pérez) is in drag, Bruno (Jacques) is HIV-positive (and looks astoundingly like a younger version of Brit band Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie), and Claire (Tedeschi) despises everyone. Or something like that. Frankly, for much of the film, it's hard to tell exactly what's going on and who, exactly, reviles whom, but by the third act, things begin to gel, and none too pleasantly at that. Buoyed by an absolutely brilliant soundtrack featuring the likes of Jeff Buckley, Massive Attack, and the rightfully iconic Nine Simone, and shot through with a curious (and entirely French) vein of comic misery, Those Who Love Me … is rewarding simply in its complexity of emotions, both concealed and otherwise.

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Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train, Patrice Chéreau, Donimique Blanc, Roschdy Zem, Vincent Pérez, Sylvain Jacques, Bruno Todeschini, Charles Berling, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Pascal Greggory

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