Trans Europ-Express (1966) Movie Review: A New Form of Telling a Crime Story

Hello Strangers!

I know it has been a long time since the last post, and I missed you, missed this every second I was away. As I was away, I have watched many movies, and they are all coming towards you as a recommendation soon.

Today, we have gathered here to talk about the movie Trans-Europ-Express, the last movie recommendation of Ron – my friend and brand of those rare people who are talented and kind at the same time. Oh! wait, the last time I met him, he asked me to review another movie. To know which one, stick around for the upcoming reviews.

I kept this film to be reviewed at the end among all Ron’s suggested movies cause I knew, that this movie will be comparatively a lighter and less intense movie. Well as I thought, it was a fun movie to witness. The aspect which I liked most about this movie was its twist and turns, and “what the f***” moments (yes, there is a double meaning, and you need to watch this movie to understand it).

Watch the trailer:

  • Writer and Director: Alain Robbe-Grillet
  • Cinematography: Willy Kurant
  • Editor: Bob Wade
  • Music: Michel Fano
  • Release Date: 25 January 1967 (France)
  • Language: French
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant as Elias
  • Marie-France Pisier as Eva
  • Prima Symphony as The stripper
  • Clo Vanesco as Cabaret Singer

It feels good to be a critique where I can use words like inception and the reader instantly understand what I mean. So, here it comes, this movie is like movie inception, a movie within a movie. Now, I will be honest, it took me a little searching to understand the subtle layers and the chronology (or none of it) of this film. So, I am quoting from Nick Pinkerton’s article which is published on FilmComment, who quoted Gore Vidal’s critical remark on Robbe-Grillet’s (the director) comment on Last Year at Marienbad in his essay French Letters: Theories of the New Novel, “The only important ‘character’ is the spectator. In his mind unfolds the whole story which is precisely imagined by him.’ The verb ‘imagine’ is, of course, incorrect, while the adverb means nothing. The spectator is not imagining the film; he is watching a creation which was made in a precise historic past by a writer, a director, actors, cameramen, etc. Yet to have the spectator or reader involve himself directly in the act of creation continues to be Robbe-Grillet’s goal.”

If this got little too confusing for you, then let me break it down by simply referring to the movie ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’. Trans-Europ-Express is the old, classic vision of ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ way of narrating a movie where the director wants to involve the audience/ viewer and bridge the gap between what is happening behind the screen and the audience sitting in front of it. So, here in this movie, the director bridges the gap by involving the viewer in the creative process of building the movie. But the only difference between this movie and ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ is of technology used and of course, also the plot. Here, just because the technology wasn’t so advance then to allow the viewer decide the end of the movie, they had to make it work by having a discussion among themselves and involving the viewer by giving them the only stance of being a witness. However, the intention of the directors remains the same in both movies. So I will say, with the available amenities of 1966, this movie not only stands out for its time but also is an interesting watch for this present time.

When you see this movie, there are two things that are going to stand out: First, the starting few scenes and second, the subtle and unique comical style. When one sees the first scene, apart from being impressed by the fluidity, they will also like how it was again replicated by Elias, played by Jean-Louis Trintignant, in the later scenes when the three creative people sit down in the once functioning train in the real world, Trans-Europ-Express, to discuss making a movie regarding a man smuggling cocaine. The three creative people were Jean, played by Alain Robbe-Grillet (director/writer), a woman, played by Catherine Robbe-Grillet (director’s real-life wife), and another middle-aged unaccredited man. As they are discussing how the character (Elias) in their movie will stand at the newspaper stand as Jean had done a few minutes earlier, Elias was seen parallelly following their story-line and direction. The director/writer filled this movie with subtle and witty humor. In one of the scenes, as they were discussing how their character will get off the train, parallelly, Elias got off the train and walked right past their train window, and all the three people just silently observed him and without any suspicion, again got back to their discussion. The writer and the director, Alain Robbe-Grillet used the comical pause at a brilliant time and in a creative manner, and you will find many such witty comical punches throughout the movie.

Just because the plot of this movie was not centered, the background to the characters was not established/ needed, so the audience does not develop an emotional bond with the characters. However, there are some places where the writer/director hit the creative note in the audience and they too get too engrossed in the creative process of creating the film and ends up thinking about alternative endings or other different directions which the story-line could take. The voice of which in the movie was the middle-aged unaccredited man who participated in the process of building the story by countering the writer, Jean’s thoughts, and his wife setting the conflict by replaying the recorder that she was managing.

Again, just because the characters were not well defined due to the decentralization of the plot, the actors didn’t have much to play on or ground their characters. Despite that, Jean-Louis Trintignant (Elias) and Marie-France Pisier (Eva- a prostitute/police informer) played their respective undefined characters to the T, and the other supporting actors also worked their parts well.

My final verdict for this movie is that its an interesting watch, and its a masterpiece for those people who are avid movie fans and not only because they like to be entertained, but also enjoy the process of creating it. I know that for some people this movie might not spike interest as the story-line and directions of this movie is not that concrete or structured, but I would urge them to give this movie and try and share your views in the comment section below.

Don’t miss out, and read Ron’s book, Remember, Repeat, Inhabit where he is meditating on the concept of ‘viewing’. Yes, this concept goes deeper than just viewing what is placed in front of you. This book is definitely worth a view. To know the next Ron’s recommended movie, and other many unique and entertaining movies, follow our blog, MovieAnatomie.

Until next time, stay curious and enjoy entertaining movies!

About: Movie Anatomie

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