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Director: ERMANNO OLMI - ABBAS KIAROSTAMI - KEN LOACH

ITALY-U.K.-IRAN| 2005. COLOUR. SUBTITLED. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 109 MIN.


PORTMANTEAU FILMS ARE OFTEN HIT-AND-MISS BECAUSE THEY DON’T GIVE THE INDIVIDUAL SECTIONS ENOUGH ROOM TO DEVELOP. KUDOS THEN TO THE PRODUCERS HERE FOR MATCHING UP THREE GREAT COMPLEMENTARY FILMMAKERS WORKING IN A BROADLY REALIST STYLE, OFFERING THEM EACH A HALF-HOUR-PLUS TO WORK WITH, AND USING THE CONNECTING THREAD OF A TRAIN JOURNEY THROUGH ITALY TO MAINTAIN A HELPFUL SENSE OF CONTINUITY.
The order of play is spot-on too. First up is the veteran Italian Ermanno Olmi’s offering in which a pixie-ish elderly scientist muses on the kindness of the attractive assistant who purchased two tickets to make him more comfortable, but whose kindness has further isolated him from the Albanian immigrants standing starving in the corridor. It’s a warm and wistful piece, though perhaps lacking the dramatic snap of the following segment from gifted Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami. Here, an imposing middle-aged lady decides she’s worth first-class travel no matter what her ticket says and a befuddled inspector has to make the best of it in the circumstances. As events unfold with roundabout logic, Kiarostami admirably never tells us how to react to these characters, contrasting with the final Ken Loach episode which plays on our existing prejudices about a trio of Celtic fans and the Albanian immigrants whose fortunes unexpectedly intertwine. With its rousingly affirmative finale, Loach’s story sends us out with a thoughtful smile, a fitting closer to a worthwhile, well-observed trip.

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