Train of Life | Chicago Reader

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Another Holocaust fable that, like Schindler's List and Life Is Beautiful, insists on moral uplift and historical evasion. Train of Life (1998) was filmed before Life Is Beautiful, and director and screenwriter Radu Mihaileanu had originally intended to cast Roberto Benigni in the crucial role of a village idiot in central Europe in 1941 who devises an ingenious plot to escape the wrath of the Nazis—building a fake deportation train. The humor here is woven more freely into the narrative than in Life Is Beautiful; the Jewish tailor responsible for fashioning the Nazi uniforms is particularly sharp and expressive. The best passages show Jewish life and culture—the music, daily rituals, and emotional rhythms, which have an understated beauty the balance of the film never captures—conveying a strong, convincing sense of what was lost. Shot in part by Yorgos Arvanitis, Theo Angelopoulos's great cinematographer, the film is far more visually accomplished than Life Is Beautiful, but it uses the same sort of emotional manipulation to turn the Holocaust into farce. In French with subtitles. 103 min.

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