Daily | Locarno 2013 | Claire Simon’s GARE DU NORD and HUMAN GEOGRAPHY

Gare du Nord

‘Gare du Nord’

“How appropriate it is that Claire Simon‘s complementary pair of pictures, the narrative Gare du Nord and the documentary Human Geography, should take place at the train station that lends the former its name,” begins Ronan Doyle at Criticwire. “Human Geography searches the station for interesting passengers whose destinations might illuminate the cross-section of humanity this location represents; Gare du Nord, meanwhile, directly presents that sense of convergence in its construction of interlaced subplots centered on one unlikely romance. ‘A global market square’ is how Ismael, one of Gare du Nord‘s leads, describes the station. He’s right, though it takes the discoveries of Human Geography to fully illuminate just how…. While neither film forcibly depends on having seen, or even heard of, the other, it’s a classic case of a whole far greater than the sum of its parts.”


Human Geography (Géographie humaine) is screening Out of Competition in Locarno, while Gare du Nord is most definitely in. Dan Fainaru in Screen Daily on the latter: “Even with the addition of a tentative plot that has been concocted to provide a backbone to keep the movie together, this still looks and sounds like a documentary collage of brief impressions picked up and then bunched together as a series of vignettes around the four main characters.” And he finds that the stories “not only get lost in the myriad of incidents surrounding them but are both too mannered and manipulated to ring true in comparison to the rest and too weak to keep all of it together.”

Update, 8/29: “As it progressed, I was reminded of Resnais and, later, of Rivette, both in its repetition and in the casual way in which supernatural elements begin to creep into and inform its plot,” writes Michael Pattison at Filmlinc Daily.

Update, 9/8: “Known in France for such documentaries as the schoolyard portrait, Recreations, and the small business saga, Coute que Coute, Simon has a knack for revealing the complex human relationships within a singular, shared space,” writes Jordan Mintzer in the Hollywood Reporter, “and Gare du Nord works best when it shows characters of far different ethnic origins rubbing shoulders and making ends meet, despite a constant sense of friction that sometimes spills over into violence…. Yet as the narrative slowly switches gears to a more fictional mode, it loses its sense of originality, bringing in familiar French actors for quick cameos and turning the station’s regular inhabitants into mere background players. (Viagra) ”

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