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Trans-Europ-Express1967

  • 3.9
TRANS-EUROP-EXPRESS is a self-referential, neo-noir thriller, with heavy doses of sado-masochism, from the mind of Alain Robbe-Grillet. On the train from Paris to Antwerp, a director and his production team hash-out the plot of a crime movie. Their story is enacted by Jean Louis-Trintignant, who plays Elias, a cocaine smuggler seduced by Eva (who may be working for a rival gang). But as the director keeps changing the story, Elias becomes lost in a labyrinth of false leads and shifting allegiances.

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"The high-water mark defining the end of a decade-long romance between experimental fiction and post-Classical French Cinema." - Jonathan Dawson, Sense of Cinema


5 members like this review

Robbe-Grillet wanted to do away with all psychological depth in his novels, but they always wound up circling around the deepest, darkest secrets of the human soul--especially rape and murder. The screenplay he wrote for Alain Resnais's "Last Year at Marienbad" is pretty dark, too, even if the theme isn't quite as lurid. This little gem here, which R-G directed himself, is a pulp "nouveau roman" for the cinema. On board a train, strangers' altogether normal appearances suggest a story of smuggling, prostitution, double-dealing, and death. Thousands of pages of tedious academic prose could be written on the narrative experiment (and probably have been), but it's best experienced as a ride of what philosophical types might call the "kinetic image." Mindless entertainment can be brainy, too.

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Member Reviews (12)

8dae6774defd1d0f91cc7dd2835ce800?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2fmale%2favatar m 0083
top reviewer

Robbe-Grillet wanted to do away with all psychological depth in his novels, but they always wound up circling around the deepest, darkest secrets of the human soul--especially rape and murder. The screenplay he wrote for Alain Resnais's "Last Year at Marienbad" is pretty dark, too, even if the theme isn't quite as lurid. This little gem here, which R-G directed himself, is a pulp "nouveau roman" for the cinema. On board a train, strangers' altogether normal appearances suggest a story of smuggling, prostitution, double-dealing, and death. Thousands of pages of tedious academic prose could be written on the narrative experiment (and probably have been), but it's best experienced as a ride of what philosophical types might call the "kinetic image." Mindless entertainment can be brainy, too.

5 members like this review
2e96eff8174b408fe68458c53c86b24b?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2ffemale%2favatar f 0025
top reviewer

Love these complicated scripts that tease and confuse - but this one, since it wasn't reality in the first place , left me floundering. And since it wasn't reality, it couldn't have an ending - or did it. Wonderful directing and acting kept me in the hunt. Thank goodness for Eve.

4 members like this review
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top reviewer

It started off as a funny, very meta parody of thrillers. I liked it. But as it went along, the film-within-a-film stuff sort of disappeared, and just became a thriller. That would have been fine, except that it wasn't a particularly good thriller. Everything was over-complex and contrived, and the protagonist wasn't worth rooting for--all of which was fine when it was being played for laughs. But it felt pointless when it became serious.

3 members like this review

An absurdist playful parody of a film noir crime flick.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Alain Robbe-Grillet's Trans-Europ-Express (1967) is a film about making a film. As such, it is thematically related to Ingmar Bergman's Persona ( 1966), and Vilgot Sjoman's I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967) and I Am Curious (Blue) (1968). That these European films were made almost simultaneously seems more than a mere coincidence here, and suggests some cross fertilization of filmmaking ideas. In any case, all these films center upon the same theme: "Where does the movie end, and reality begin?" The idea, of course, is hardly new, for in 1599, it was Shakespeare who penned in his As You Like It : "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. " The point is that stage plays and theatrical films are merely a refinement and an objectification of what everyday people do everyday. We all assume the roles that society assigns to us, and read the lines off the script appropriate to a specific role, all the while wearing the "theater mask" for that socially assigned role. But it is Bergman, in his Persona, who most clearly articulates the main issue here, that while we are wearing various social masks, assuming our various social selfs, we are, to some extent, cutting ourselves off from our true, inner self. This is where the "inauthenticity", the emptiness, and the lack of real meaning in life that the Existentialists love to talk about emanates. This is significant to the character of the protagonist Elias in Trans-Europ-Express, because he comes across as a man without a real self, a genuine self. In fact, the viewer never learns the protaganist's real name for Elias is an alias, thusly making our protagonist somewhat anonymous, somewhat lacking in a real self in the storyline itself. Add to that the fact that his "mission" in the film as a drug courier, is a role that was recently assigned to him, a role then that his is just "rehearsing", and thus distant from his real self, and we have a perfect model of a seemingly "everyday man" who has donned a social mask and is merely playing the role that has been assigned to him. Elias' proclivity toward prostitutes and sado-masochism is particularly interesting in this regard too, because his brutal sado-masochistic persona, which emerges when he is alone with a prostitute seems alien to his personality in all other scenes in the film. So, the sado-masochistic Elias is prominently portrayed as an assumed social role, an assumed social mask as well, somehow divorced from his real, genuine , inner self. In short, Elias as a role in a contrived screenplay, is little more "real" than the actual Elias portrayed in the "reality" of the drug smuggling operation itself. Elias, as both portrayed in the film as a figment of a screenwriter's imagination, as as a "real" person in a drug smuggling scheme, are equally unreal, equally "inauthentic", as the Existentists like to say. As such, Elias, the character, is somewhat reminiscent of the Beatles song "Nowhere Man" which was, coincidentally or not, released in 1966. All the way around, Elias, in this film, is a "Nowhere Man", just as we all are, to a certain extent, as we offer ourselves as the willing pawns of the social institutions, and the social influences all around us in our everyday lives.

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Fascinating film: a jigsaw puzzle that never comes together, and is extremely entertaining doing so.

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Delightfully aimless. Sexy.

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The cinematography is fabulous, and the actors so great, that it doesn't even matter that the plot and dialogue are deliberately insipid. This is a perfect example of when I wish I could turn off the subtitles. They are a distraction. The bondage scenes and sexy lingerie are a fun bonus. 4.5 stars.

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top reviewer

smart_well done _Jean-Louis Trintignant really cool & Marie-France Pisier wonderful_all sweet _make it a 5 i love it

94 minutes out of my life I can never reclaim! I should've bailed no more than 30 mins. in!! The charm of the "cinema inside jokes" wore off quickly.

One of those undervalued directors form la nouvelle vague. Godard and Truffaut was amazing but Robbe-Grillet had his own genius.

One of my favorite films ever!

Provides historical perspective on french cinema sensibility. Interesting to see Robbe-Grillet working with Trintignant in a style somewhat camera oscura as in

the photography of Carlo Mollino.