Pssst, want to check out Trans-Europ-Express in our new look?
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I'm a fan of Alain Robbe-Grillet's literary work, in particular Les gommes (The Erasers), his most playful "nouveau roman", an absurdist style he more or less invented, by which the mechanics of novel-writing are questioned, subverted, and destroyed. He also directed a number of films, something I didn't know until I found Trans-Europ-Express, and I was keen on finding out if he broke the rules of cinema as well as those of the novel. From this one example, I'd say yes! He and his wife are in the film, discussing a film project as it manifests itself. Part automatic writing, part commentary, the film takes shots at crime drama, exposing but at the same time excusing the genre's usual plot holes. Train track and bondage imagery converge to evoke a fictional character's lack of true agency, a major theme in Robbe-Grillet's writing, while also shocking audiences with sensual kink. Experimental films can be a chore, and T-E-E does have occasional longueurs, but like the director's books, there's a sense of fun there too, which makes it a lot more palatable.
Is this supposed to be so bad? Good question .. It may be a spoof of the worst excesses of New Wave' .. or it may just BE the worst of new wave. Sadly, I suspect the latter.
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In 3 official lists
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This movie ranks #71 in Sight & Sound's 75 Hidden Gems
This movie ranks #125 in ICM Forum's 500<400
This movie ranks #951 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life