TicketsReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 09/27/06 19:18:14
Everyone is in motion in “Tickets.” The obvious metaphor is the train, which carries all the characters across Europe and across important moments in their lives. And yet the metaphor is just an underlying piece to this touching, delicate story of people on the verge of self-discovery. These are people awakening to who they are, and who they want to be.The film is a collaboration of three big-time international directors: Ermanno Olmi (“The Job,” “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”), Abbas Kiarostami (“Taste of Cherry,” “The Wind Will Carry Us”), and Ken Loach (“Sweet Sixteen,” “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”), each one directing a chapter in this anthology tale of sorts, all set during a cross-continental train ride. Olmi and Kiarostami wrote their respective segments; longtime Loach collaborator Paul Laverty scripted Loach’s segment. Curiously, the three acts of the film were written in order, each filmmaker adding to the overall story and building on ideas presented before.
In Olmi’s opener, an aging professor (Carlo Della Piane) spends the trip entertaining thoughts of romance with the beautiful young assistant (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) who saw him off. It’s a tale of quiet grace, the professor falling under the spells of possible love all while staying so alone, so silent. He attempts to work on both a business report and a love letter, and his mind takes him far away. It’s a gorgeous study in less-is-more, as Piane’s gentle performance draws us in, letting us swim in this man’s most personal thoughts.
And then, every so often, we get a glimpse of a family struggling to handle their baby, desperate for a seat or a meal. Without ever formally referencing this in the professor’s own thoughts or dialogue, we find ourselves drawn in: will he rise to help the child, or will he merely fight to ignore it all, as are the fellow passengers? After all, the man has been given an extra ticket and meal voucher. Will he use it for himself, or something nobler? Olmi does so much with so little as we linger on such thoughts, and we can never turn away, desperate to see how it all plays out.
The middle segment belongs to Kiarostami, who tells of a loudmouthed, bothersome old hag (Silvana De Santis) and the young man (Filippo Trojano) traveling with her. The woman is increasingly insufferable, always demanding to have things her way with no consideration to others; even when she’s proven right, we wish her to be wrong anyway, just to get to see her suffer what she deserves. Meanwhile, the young man finds occasional escape in conversation with a teenage friend of his ex; they flirt, and despite the age difference, we root for him to choose her (well, anyone, really) over the somber duties of caring for the woman who deserves no care.
What’s most frustrating - and commendable at the same time - is how vaguely Kiarostami works his story. We get peeks into the young man’s situation: seemingly too old to be doing the community service he’s doing, but how did he get here? Why? He seems a man stuck in a stunted emotional growth, hence the apparent acceptability of him smiling softly at the girl. The dialogue rings true; his conversation with the teen is limited to small talk, shared memories, and repeat mentions of the ex-girlfriend, their only true common link. The young man’s story is resolved, but the questions are never answered. Again, it can be frustrating, but it’s also more compelling than a story that might fill in all the blanks. We see a mere snapshot in his life, and it’s up to us to make guesses as to the rest.
Loach wraps things up with a powerful episode regarding three Scottish lads (Martin Compston, Gary Maitland, and William Ruane) traveling to Rome to watch their favorite football team play in a championship match. Their journey begins with typical brash talk and a chance to hit up some local lovelies, then sidesteps with the return of the family from the first story. They’re revealed to be Albanian refugees making their way to Rome. But did they steal one of the boys’ tickets, and if so, who deserves it more?
This is the most moving of the three chapters, full of the raucous, raw life Loach handles best in his films. The boys are funny and annoying and loud and smart, and what they experience here will probably shape their futures far more than what they could possibly see in a football arena. Meanwhile, the fear and sorrow of the refugee family is heartbreaking; the clash between the two groups sticks with us long after the film ends. Loach gets in close and steps away from the quieter pacing of the other directors; his story is busy with life, anger, and joy.
All three directors place into their tales issues of class division and the power of having and having not. Yet this is not a message movie, there is no important theme slammed into our heads with every line of dialogue. The filmmakers let the issues play out on their own terms, in their own time, finding instead room for character and drama and genuine emotional power. This is a marvelous character study, a terrific exercise in cinematic storytelling, and one of the year’s best films.(This review has been reprinted with kind permission from DVD Talk and the author, who is me. For details on the DVD release, please visit www.DVDTalk.com.)
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