Editor’s Notes: A Tale of Two Thieves, Two Men in Town, & Je t’aime, je t’aime are out on their respective formats November 10th.
A Tale of Two Thieves
A Tale of Two Thieves (Virgil Films) takes the viewer back to 1963 in the picturesque English countryside, where a gang of 15 men pulled off the notorious Great Train Robbery, stealing today’s equivalent of $60 million, most of which was never recovered. This documentary centers on Gordon Goody, one of the participants in the crime who, more than 50 years after the event, has finally agreed to go on the record and reveal all the unknown facts about the night of the robbery and his long life of crime. The film’s highlight is Goody’s revelation of the identity of the missing mastermind behind Britain’s most famous heist — the elusive and mysterious “Ulsterman,” who walked away and disappeared with over 2.6 million pounds ($5 million).
Director Chris Long (The Mentalist, Gilmore Girls) delves deeply into the legendary crime on the Glasgow-to-London train, detailing how the robbery was pulled off with no firearms but through methodical planning and inside information. The heist has fascinated and baffled historians, criminologists, crime buffs and filmmakers for half a century.
Now 84, Goody currently lives in Spain. He’s a wry raconteur, revealing much of his personal life story as well as recollections of the robbery with charming directness, never sugarcoating what he did. He used violence, stole from innocent people, and enjoyed the material benefits of a life of crime. Rather than glorify the robbery, the documentary shows its reality in often unwavering, harsh detail. In reconstructed scenes, Harry Macqueen plays a younger version of Goody. Carefully assembled and edited archival material provides a sense of the period.
Since the documentary relies on the accounts of only one man — Goody — it’s not 100% clear whether they’re accurate. However, it is the first time a participant in the robbery has come forward to fill in the unknowns that law enforcement couldn’t crack. There are no bonus extras on this DVD release.
Two Men in Town
Two Men in Town (Cohen Media Group) is a semi-autobiographical crime drama in which director and co-writer Jose Giovanni presents an indictment of the death penalty. When ex-safe cracker Gino (Alain Delon) is released from prison thanks to the aid of social worker and prison reformer Germain Cazeneuve (Jean Gabin), he discovers that his attempts to go straight are made more difficult by a suspicious and vengeful chief inspector of police (Michel Bouquet). To complicate Gino’s good intentions, his former gang hopes to lure him back into a life of crime.
Director Giovanni was born Joseph Damiani in Paris in 1923. After the liberation of Paris in 1945, Damiani and three accomplices posed as Military Intelligence officers and murdered three individuals after torturing and forcing them to turn over money and gold. He was arrested at home the following month, admitted his involvement in the triple murder and was sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted by President Vincent Auriol to hard labor for life. In 1956, Damiani’s sentence was remitted by President Rene Coty. Changing his name to Jose Giovanni, Damiani wrote his first novel “Le Trou” (“The Hole”), about an escape he and other inmates attempted by digging a tunnel from their cell into the Paris sewers.
Bonus extras on the region-free Blu-ray release include feature-length commentary by Jean Gabin biographer Charles Zigman, and theatrical trailers. The film is in French, with English subtitles. An American remake with the same title, starring Forest Whitaker, Harvey Keitel, and Brenda Blethyn, was released in 2014.
Je t’aime, je t’aime
Je t’aime, je t’aime (Kino Lorber) focuses on Claude Ridder (Claude Rich), who is recovering from an unsuccessful suicide attempt after the failure of his relationship with Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot). He is approached by a mysterious scientific lab that wants him to participate in the human trials of a new time travel device. The test will send him back one year, for a minute. But the machine malfunctions and Ridder gets caught in a never-ending series of time leaps, reliving his tragic life in a jumbled sequence. His past is a nightmare he wants to escape.
Director Alain Resnais (“Hiroshima Mon Amour, Last Year at Marienbad) might have told this story chronologically, but the time warp plot gimmick allows him to tell his story more cinematically, with flashbacks and flashforwards constituting the narrative. The science-fiction premise is merely a device to explore the relationship between Ridder and Catrine by showing us what happened in the past to drive Ridder to attempt taking his own life. The problem is that by doling out shards of memories and pieces of conversation, Resnais fails to involve us emotionally. Brief flashes of scenes repeat as newly revealed information alters their meanings each time. A sustained scene or two would help us empathize with Ridder. The time travel premise metaphorically suggests the habit of replaying one’s failures and the need to make sense out of both true love and despair.
Je t’aime, je t’aime is a nearly abstract jigsaw puzzle of repeated dialogue and impressionistic images. The switching around from past to present and back again eventually wears thin and appears more cinematic showing-off than viable method of exposition. Like Ridder, the viewer ultimately feels he’s the subject of an experiment gone amiss. The movie is in French, with optional English subtitles.