The Sleeping Car Murder
Original title: Compartiment tueurs
- 1h 35m
The witnesses of a train murder must take the investigation into their own hands if they want to survive.The witnesses of a train murder must take the investigation into their own hands if they want to survive.The witnesses of a train murder must take the investigation into their own hands if they want to survive.
An exciting and ingenious French film noir by Costa-Gavras
This film, the original French title of which is COMPARTIMENT TUEURS, is known in English as THE SLEEPING CAR MURDER. I don't believe it has ever been available with English subtitles on DVD or video. I obtained a poor DVD copy of an off the air tape, which was dubbed into English. Despite the poor quality of my copy, it was well worth viewing. The film is directed and scripted by the famous Costa-Gavras, but is one of his least known films, because of the lack of distribution. It goes at a cracking pace and has a splendid cast. Probably the best job of acting is done by Michel Piccoli as a hopeless, creepy lech who is on the edge of madness and can't make it with women despite his uncontrollable lusts and interior rants of frustration, which we hear as voice-overs. Tthe film is filled with other well known actors. Yves Montand plays a world-weary Paris police inspector, Simone Signoret plays an aging woman who has fallen hopelessly in love with a mysterious young man played by Jean-Louis Trintignant. The scene where Montand interviews Signoret (the two in real life were a well known couple, as most people are aware) is amusing, because they struggle to control their giggles. Catherine Allégret plays a young girl just travelling to Paris for the first time in a sleeping car with five other people, two of whom are Signoret and Piccoli. They are on an overnight train journey from Marseilles (although the story starts at Avignon) to Paris. Upon arrival, a glamorous woman in the compartment is discovered to have been strangled to death. The police set about trying to find the killer and start by attempting to round up all the people who had spent the night in the sleeping car. But then, one by one, before the police can get to them, the people in the sleeping car are brutally killed by the same person, presumably to get rid of witnesses to the strangling of the woman in the sleeping car. However, the story has a lot more surprises than that. The film is based upon a novel by the very clever writer Sébastian Japrisot, who is famous for A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (2004) starring the Elf, Audrey Tautou, and THE CHILDREN OF THE MARSHLAND (1999, see my forthcoming review). This was the first feature film directed by Costa-Gavras, who was later to shake the world with his powerful political dramas such as Z, STATE OF SIEGE, MISSING, and MUSIC BOX. He is still with us, aged 81, and directed the film CAPITAL starring Gabriel Byrne and Philippe Duclos (one of my favourite actors) as recently as 2012, when he was 79. One curiosity of the casting is that Claude Berri appears as a porter in the film, though uncredited. It was in this same year that he produced his first short film, LE POULET. He had already been acting for twelve years. This film has many twists and turns and an extraordinarily ingenious plot. I will not spoil things by even hinting at an explanation of it. Costa-Gavras directs with verve and intensity, and he achieves a spectacular success with the complicated filming of a sequence where a speeding car is being chased by a gang of motorcycles. It is no easy thing to keep track of half a dozen speeding vehicles of different sizes streaking across the streets of Paris at night, and make it look convincing. The cinematography by Jean Tournier is a tour de force, and the editing by Christian Gaudin enables the director to achieve his sense of an insoluble mystery hurtling over a cliff into the unknown at ever-increasing speed, with Yves Montand, who is heavy-lidded and has a cold, streaking after it, determined to find out whodunit if it is the last thing he does (I mean, the last thing he does before going to sleep, as he so laid back that one often does not know whether he is thinking or napping). The spider's web of complexity of this film's plot and the explosive speed at which it travels creates what was to be the trademark Costa-Gavras sense of danger and excitement from this, his very first film. If you can find it and manage to see it, you certainly won't regret it. What a way to start his career as a director!
- May 12, 2014
Contribute to this page
Suggest an edit or add missing content
By what name was The Sleeping Car Murder (1965) officially released in Canada in English?Answer