The Man on the Train is a quietly remarkable, intelligent, intensely poetic film about the unlikely and somewhat bittersweet friendship between two very different men.
A remake of the French film, L’Homme du Train, The Man on the Train stars U2’s Larry Mullen and the brilliant Donald Sutherland — the latter of which really deserved an Oscar for his performance.
Mullen effectively portrays a mysterious, sullen drifter whose chance encounter with a retired, lonely poetry professor (Sutherland) leads both men to examine their respective life paths and personalities.
As the silent drifter is forced to stay with the overly chatty professor, their initially stilted, socially awkward conversation grows into a thought-provoking dialogue spanning several days as each reveals their unexpected envy of the other’s life.
The unusual relationship is summed up best by two scenes: one in which the repressed professor pretends to be Wyatt Earp with the drifter’s gun and the other in which the tough drifter peruses books and listens to classical music with the professor’s unlit pipe in his mouth.
It’s a slow moving but beautiful, literary film with refreshingly elegant direction and acting.
A subtle suspense simmers just beneath the surface of the story as it becomes evident that both men hide their own deep, dark secrets…which come crashing into the light on their final day together. The end was a bit too darkly ambiguous for my taste (proving, I suppose, the Professor’s Henry James quote that “Americans want tragedies with happy endings”), but it was clever and I otherwise loved the film.
2Cellos are twenty-four year old, Croatian classically trained cellists, Luka Sulic and Stjepan Hauser. The duo quickly rose to fame after a YouTube video of their dueling cello cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” was viewed by millions. 2Cellos soon signed to Sony Masterworks, were invited by Elton John to join his European tour and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres show. That infamous “Smooth Criminal” performance is just one of the many pop and rock covers featured on 2Cello’s new self-titled debut album, which also finds the two musicians transforming hits by U2, Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Guns ‘N’ Roses and Nirvana into cello instrumentals.
2Cellos is bookended with U2 covers – opening with an atmospheric, somewhat foreboding “Where The Streets Have No Name” and closing with a gentle “With or Without You.” Say what you will about U2 as a band, their songs are undeniably distinctive and instantly recognizable. The two covers are among the highlights of this album.
Sulic and Hauser then explode from a soft, understated intro to Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” (best known as the theme of Pulp Fiction) into a frenzy of strings.
2Cello’s aforementioned blistering rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” reveals previously hidden intricacies in the song’s melody.
Granted, you could probably play the title track from Muse’s brilliant The Resistance (one of my Best of the Decade) on spoons and the song would still be magnificent. This classical rendering is so lovely, though, replacing the defiant excitement of the original with a feeling of wistful determination.
The covers of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” Sting’s “Fragile” and Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” are lackluster without vocals, but the fault lies in the arrangements, not the instrumentation.
Judging from the liner note credits, 2Cello covered Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt” here rather than the Nine Inch Nails original. Regardless, they do an excellent job of capturing the song’s melancholic beauty.
Their version of of the Guns ‘N’ Roses hit “Welcome To The Jungle” is probably very impressive live, but the recording is a bit shrill and grating for my taste.
Their take on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is much more successful and by far the stand out track on the album. 2Cello’s exotic, moody interpretation stays true to the original’s rock edge, but adds a classical depth and shows off the complexity and innovation of Nirvana’s songwriting.
Sony + all covers means I’m not permitted to share an mp3 or even a stream from the album, but you can hear samples at the links below…
Last week’s selection of U2: The Joshua Tree went very well. Though the second half of the album isn’t nearly as strong as the first (which opens with the back to back singles “Where The Streets Have No Name, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With Or Without You”), it was a fun listen from beginning to end. I wish U2 hadn’t stopped mixing rock and blues (where’d the harmonica go?) into their pop music, because they used to be truly great. We’ll keep moving ahead on the classics timeline…
This week’s classic album will be….Tori Amos: Little Earthquakes
To recap the procedure here: At the beginning of each week, I’ll post brief thoughts on the previous week’s listening experience along with the coming week’s classic album selection. Then sometime in the week that follows, we’ll all take the time to listen to the album from beginning to end with no distractions. It can be as simple as just getting away from the computer to listen alone or you can make an event of it with candles, beverages and friends. Whatever format you play the album in or the manner in which you listen, just give the music your full and undivided attention.
Feel free to comment or email your opinions of our selections and recommendations for classic albums (from any decade, including this one).
I’ve learned my lesson, I should only choose albums for this club that I’ve already heard at least once. While the first week of Muruch Classic Albums Appreciation Club was a smashing success courtesy of Led Zeppelin IV (a.k.a. ZOSO), last week’s choice of The Who’s Tommy was so not my cup of coffee.
The Who is one of those bands whose singles I greatly enjoy, but whose albums leave me cold. While I love “Pinball Wizard” and respect the concept of a “rock opera” album, listening to Tommy was so tedious for both my husband and myself that we both ran to stop the recording halfway through track 14 (the monotonous “Tommy can you hear me?”). I understand why some consider it a classic, especially considering how innovative it seemed in its time. But my personal view of a truly classic album is one that I would enjoy listening to in any decade, not just the era it was originally released in. And honestly, I doubt I would’ve enjoyed Tommy even in its heyday. Your mileage may vary.
So, in hopes of getting my enthusiasm back for this project, I’m going to move forward to the 1980s and select an album I know will be an enjoyable listening experience.
This week’s classic album will be…. U2: The Joshua Tree
The artistic merit of U2’s music in recent decades has been a topic of debate (at least in my circle of friends), but there’s no denying that Joshua Tree was both a landmark album in 1987 and has several songs that have withstood the test of time.