CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
‘The Girl on the Train’ Favors Character Study Over Social Commentary
CHICAGO – Here’s a film that pulls off the tricky feat of moving quickly while taking its time. Like its rollerblading protagonist, “The Girl on the Train” is constantly on the move, hurtling headfirst into a series of interlocking relationships. Yet the director, André Téchiné, is less interested in his story’s destination than he is with the journey his characters take, and the various circumstances that lead them to make life-altering, often inexplicable choices.
With a career spanning over thirty years, Téchiné has truly emerged as one of France’s most gifted filmmakers. His storytelling approach has always been more poetic than plot-driven, and his latest work is no exception. Any moviegoer expecting “Girl on the Train” to be a penetrating examination of the real-life incident at its core will be disappointed. The film is an adaptation of Jean-Marie Besset’s play, which was inspired by a 2004 media storm centering on a young Gentile woman’s claim that she had been the victim of an anti-Semitic attack. Since several similar crimes had recently occurred, the public easily accepted her story. Then it turned out to be false.
Though Téchiné utilizes a rather theatrical two-act structure, his film is not at all like a claustrophobic, dialogue-heavy social commentary in the vein of Stanley Kramer. The central “incident” doesn’t occur until late into the picture, and initially seems to come out of nowhere, as the impulsive twenty-one-year-old Jeanne (Émilie Dequenne) once again allows her actions to be guided by her instincts rather than her head. Jeanne may have been an insufferable character if she hadn’t been played by an actress as radiant and hypnotic as Dequenne, who has a face that Kuleshov would’ve loved.
Photo Credit: © Strand Releasing