Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Gathr Previews: Night Train to Lisbon

Since the Regent isn't primarily a film venue - and even if it was, these screenings don't necessarily pack the house - December looks like it's wound up being full of conflicts. During the first week of the month, an event later in the week needed time to rehearse on the stage, but this week's offering from Gathr looked one with mainstream appeal. The best way to fit both in appeared to be running the movie at 9pm rather than the usual 7:30.

Pain in the neck for me, as I tend to hop off the 350 bus on the way home from work, but there was nothing to keep me at the office until 8pm. Plus, I kind of didn't carve out a time for supper, and attendance at these events is so low that they don't even bother opening the concession stand.

The movie itself ended up not really being bad, but not being what I'd hoped from the cast and description. Literally not what I'd hoped, in that I'd gotten the idea it was a thriller but that was a fairly small part of it. Apparently, it's made its way into some theaters this past weekend, and I'm mildly curious as to what the sales job has been there.

Night Train to Lisbon

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 December 2013 at the Regent Theatre (Gathr Previews Presents, digital)

Sometimes, there are things that the written word can do that a film can't. In Night Train to Lisbon, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons) tells how certain sentences in the book at the film's center had a profound effect on him, but even with Irons's fine voice... Well, they're nice sentences, but they don't have the direct connection to our brain that they do for him. And then, as Raimund's search for the source of those words plays out, there's a sense that it, too, may have been more absorbing in print.

The book in question comes into Gregorius's possession when the professor at a Bern preparatory school prevents a young woman from jumping off a bridge. She soon disappears, but leaves her coat behind, in which he finds a small book and a train ticket to Lisbon. He impulsively takes the train, reading the book along the way, and by the time he reaches Portugal, is just as fascinated by Amadeu Almeida de Prado (Jack Huston), the man who wrote it during the revolution forty years ago, as he is by the young woman he started out following.

There are three things going on here with the potential to be interesting stories - the tale of how a privileged young man like Amadeu becomes involved with the revolution and a spy by the name of Estefânia (Mélanie Laurent) with a photographic memory who is involved with Jorge O'Kelly (August Diehl), his best friend from school; the mystery of who the girl whose life he saved is and why this book affected her even more than it did him; and how Gregorius searching for these answers may help him break out of his tweedy shell, especially with the aid of Mariana (Martina Gedeck), the optician who helps him in this quest in part because her uncle João (Tom Courtenay) was involved in the revolution. The trouble is that somewhere along the line, be it in Bille August's direction, the screenplay by Greg Latter & Ulrich Herrmann, or Pascal Mercier's original novel, the emphasis seems to shift between Bern and Lisbon. A great mystery is initially posed, with a nameless girl, a trail of clues to be followed, and the train of the title, which certainly sounds more exciting than a quick flight, because trains are romantic.

Full review at EFC.

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