The Film: L’homme du train [Man on the Train] – France
Patrice Leconte quickly became a favorite director of mine with Man on the Train. The unique story, the masculine but artful direction — a masterful character study. It was my first experience with his work and though I originally watched it years ago, it’s a film I think about often and its impact still ripples into my writing.
Strangers who would never ordinarily meet, brought together through chance. No one does this better than Leconte. His hand is effortless. It happens because it happens. There’s a matter-of-factness in Leconte’s worlds that makes these occurrences feel natural and never more so than in this film. These two opposite personalities get to know each other and by the week’s end everything changes for both of them.
How different this story would have been if the characters had been younger, if they had been played by less seasoned actors. Johnny Hallyday and Jean Rochefort have been in some other of my favorite films but their paring is brilliant. Their faces, their voices. The film isn’t much more than the two of them and yet it feels like a feast.
You can be sure every detail has been addressed when Leconte is directing. The opening beat of the train tracks married with the music tells the tale long before the credits end. Credit goes to writer Claude Klotz as well for his excellent script. The dialog is tight and the mature sense of humor winks at you as if you’re old friends.
It’s the sign of a great film when you get excited to be back in the world, exploring with new perspectives and ideas. That’s what Leconte does, creates a whole world for the characters to inhabit, for the story to unfold. It’s not a sterile concept to sell tickets. His directing is the very language of film. With well-used fades and an emphasis on natural lighting, it’s hard to underestimate the simple forms before you but nothing is harder than this kind of film. The story is small, the characters are fully steeped in the history of their own lives, the style is real, and it all teeters on a delicate balance of guns and poetry.
Coming back to Man on the Train reminds me why I believe in foreign films, mature directing that allows you to soak in the setting, stories with smaller scopes, and characters that reflect reality. It gets under your skin as if it belongs there, that is the power of Patrice Leconte. As a filmmaker, I can only hope to come close some day.
The Food: Cidre Popcorn
I first made this recipe for a popcorn buffet at Halloween. It’s the added warm apple note that makes the crunchy caramel taste so delicious.
- 1/4 cup corn
- 1 pack instant apple cider
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon butter
Set the oven to 275°
Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Separate the unpopped kernels and put the popcorn in a bowl. Grease a baking sheet and set aside.
In a pan on medium add the sugars and the apple cider powder. Let it dissolve then add the butter. The mixture should boil down, until it looks thick 5-10 minutes.
Drizzle the sauce over the popcorn, turning to coat. Place on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and cool until hard. Yum!
If you’re looking for the alcohol content, try adding some alcoholic cider from Woodchuck Stella Artois or something similar as you add the butter.