Week of February 25, 2004

Feb 25, 2004 at 4:00 am
Man on the Train (R) Patrice Leconte. Veteran French director Patrice Leconte confirms that a streamlined narrative delivered through subdued, skilled performances suffused with complex emotions produces the memorable film. The story begins with known career criminal Milan, the titular "man," arriving in a provincial French town to meet with cronies to case and rob a bank. By coincidence, Milan becomes entangled with Manesquier, a sedentary, retired poetry teacher, scheduled for open-heart surgery and busy with routine events. What ensues in their increasingly curious, complicated interaction is the merging, even trading, of behavior, a yin-and-yang amalgamation of fascinating details. Johnny Hallyday brings to life a controlled, wary, intriguing crook while legendary French actor Jean Rochefort proves disarmingly observant. An actor of exceptional skill, he makes his portrayal seem effortless while probing human depths. Effective compositions and music -- or silence -- that communicate volumes make this an masterful, cinematic pas de deux. In French with English subtitles. Screens at 1 p.m. Sunday, February 29, in Gallery 210 on the UM-St. Louis campus. Admission is $1. Call 314-516-6546 for more information. (Diane Carson)

Modern Times (unrated) Charlie Chaplin. In his 1936 Modern Times, silent-film genius Charlie Chaplin reluctantly capitulated to sound film, a full seven years after the transition, but on his terms, mediating communication via machinery except in his closing, nonsensical song when audiences finally hear the Little Tramp's voice. Director, producer, writer, music composer, editor and star, Chaplin brilliantly indicts the inhuman environment he scathingly but hilariously lampoons. Inventive scenes include Charlie's assembly-line work, a feeding-machine experiment, a nervous breakdown and preference for jail over Depression-era hardships. Modern Times also finds eloquent comedy in a workers' parade that goes comically awry, involvement with the Gamin, (Paulette Goddard, Chaplin's real-life romance), department store excess and a prison break disrupted due to some "funny" powder. Chaplin's phenomenal acrobatic grace and the immensely appealing, energetic Goddard deserve this remastered 35-mm print. Screens at 7 and 9 p.m. Friday, February 27, and Saturday, February 28, and at 7 p.m. Sunday, February 29, in the Moore Auditorium on the campus of Webster University, 470 E. Lockwood Avenue. Call 314-968-7487 for more information. (Diane Carson)