REVIEW / OPINION FILM – “La Bataille du Rail”, the first feature film by Jean-Charles Paugam (co-writer of the Stalk series) takes a tender look at his hero, an endearing occasional dealer. With Pierre Lottin, remarkable.
A completely different battle of the rail than that of René Clément
Like other films that did not go through theatrical release due to the Covid, The Battle of the Rail is released directly on the Canal + platform. The Battle of the Rail by Jean-Charles Paugam (co-writer of the series Stalk), it is certainly not the same Rail battle than that of René Clément. In his first feature film, the director evokes rather the rail of coke that his hero Franck (Pierre Lottin) finds himself having to dispose of. He does this to help his sick mate Malick (Yasin Houicha), in exchange for a place to sleep. Because chaining the galleys one after the other, Franck can not help but hit the encrusted and wanders from squat to squat.
An intimate battle
But fundamentally, the battle is against himself that Franck delivers, because he is his worst enemy. Franck has promised to sell everything… but he will quickly realize that he is really not made for this job. Even if we have to admit that he has no luck with Malick’s clients. They manhandle him like a pinball machine, swindle him, steal him, lie to him, force him. The director and his co-writer Gérôme Rivière had the good idea to reverse the logical characteristics of a drug dealer.
They thus make Franck meet a hell of a bunch of lambdas consumers, customers more strangely and barren than each other. Then they observe how Franck gets out of his way.
And although Malick warned him that “it’s not the customers who make the law”, to each customer under pseudo that Franck meets, it is confused. We thus meet 5G (Xavier Lacaille, who recently shone in the Parliament series), in the evening of which Franck behaves as a poor negotiator of doses. Or Red Star (Benjamin Bellecour), who lets him look after his kids and suffers the shouting of his wife (Judith Siboni, in her last role in the cinema). Or Simone (Laurie Lévêque) who has no money to pay her boss’s dose.
Is not a dealer who wants
The character of Franck turns out to be not very smart, sometimes naive, often bewildered and stunned in the face of the improbable situations of this underworld of the night. Corn this sympathetic looser very endearing has resources. And that, the dealer Nina (Clara Ponsot) understood, since she decides to help him find other customers, just as crazy. We do not know much about him, or why this hero finds himself in this mess. And we almost regret it, because his galley is touching and we would have liked to know his story.
We only know that his vocabulary resembles him, as if he had no time to waste with sentences or explanations. Like him, he is direct, frank, limited and we are entitled to “my hen, my mouth, squarely”. What is very successful in The Battle of the Rail, it is Franck’s nocturnal wandering, which passes by almost all Parisian means of transport, like the wandering of his own life. It is accompanied by improvised drums, symbolizing that of Franck in the face of these encounters which would be more than destabilizing for ordinary people.
Then, as the film progresses, the dissonant music of composer Franck Lebon makes its way towards harmony and calm. Just like Franck who will finally succeed in finding his way through the mess of his life.
Pierre Lottin, who we are used to seeing in more comical roles (The Tuche), finally found in The Battle of the Rail a dramatic role to its measure, already glimpsed in A triumph. Because the actor literally carries this very pretty drama on his shoulders and offers it its touch of comedy, with a touch of irony and a touch of kindness accurately measured.
The Battle of the Rail by Jean-Charles Paugam, on Canal + the 17 october 2021. Above the trailer. Find all our trailers here.