Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Tickets is an entertaining and clever variation on the traditional omnibus film. Instead of three separate narratives by three separate directors, the stories all take place in an overlapping time sequence in a single setting, a train headed for Rome. All three are naturally about people in transit and the stories share a common concern over train tickets. The interesting characters of one story occasionally glimpse the action happening in another story. The idea is structurally successful, making the train seem like a ship of souls with an important tale to be told behind each passenger. In other words, like real life.
Well-known directors joined together to make Tickets. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami initiated the project and invited Italian Ermanno Olmi and Englishman Ken Loach to join the filming, which largely took place on the real Trenitalia railway system. Although roughly independent in its separate segments, the film overall was a collaboration. It is not all that easy to pinpoint exactly where one segment ends and another begins.
Within the tight confines of the train compartments, the individual directorial styles can still be distinguished. Olmi's segment involves the only extended flashbacks to material happening outside the moving train. It concentrates on a single protagonist's mental state and careful observation of his fellow passengers, any of which might prove to be the 'stars' of a subsequent episode. Kiarostami's piece is about direct personality conflict between an odd pair of unhappy travelers. Loach's more raucous episode follows the misadventures of an initially boorish trio of Scottish soccer fans and their interaction with a family of cash-strapped immigrants.
Omnibus movies have always been popular showcases for 'art' directors but most have a dominant episode that's remembered on its own, as with Truffaut's Antoine and Colette from Love at Twenty or Fellini's Toby Dammit from Histoires Extraordinaires. Tickets has an advantage in that its three parts build on a common theme. When it's over we feel we've had a satisfying meal instead of a divided sampler plate.
Ermanno Olmi continues the quiet, observant style he formed forty years before in pictures like Il posto and I fidanzati. Security problems ground air flights so a professor (Carlo Delle Piane) must take the train overnight. His thoughts wander between getting home in time to celebrate his grandson's birthday, and thinking about the attractive public relations assistant (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) that helped him onto the train. Soon he's imagining a romantic connection. Meanwhile, the professor observes his fellow passengers in the first class dining car, and their upset at the presence of machine-gun toting security police who ask questions and search purses. The first-class passengers also voice their disdain for the overflow of standing-room-only second-class ticket holders, including a tired family of foreigners having trouble feeding a young boy. Their plastic container of milk has spilled and the boy is crying. The professor thinks of his own grandson as he watches from his comfortable table seat.
Abbas Kiarostami's morning segment follows the overweight and definitely unhappy widow of a general (Silvana De Santis). She has bought a second-class ticket but, seeing the racial mix in that car, barges forward and claims two first-class seats for herself and her traveling companion, Filippo (Filippo Trojano). As 'service' in lieu of army duty, Filippo has been assigned as the widow's assistant. A petty complainer, the widow is jealous that Filippo isn't friendlier. She orders him around like a lapdog and wails whenever he's out of earshot. The widow gets into a heated argument over a misunderstanding with another traveler and then throws a tantrum with the conductor when told she belongs back in second class. Because of her huffy and superior tone, the conductor solves the problem by giving her an entire compartment to herself. In the passageway, Filippo engages in conversation with a cute 14 year-old from his hometown, desperate to get away from the clinging, obnoxious widow.
Ken Loach's upbeat episode introduces a trio of spirited (& profane) Scottish soccer fans (Martin Compson, Gary Maitland, William Ruane) on their way to a big game. The Italian passengers in second class are patient and indulgent until the boys suspect that one of their tickets has been stolen by an immigrant youngster (Klajdi Qorraj), part of the Albanian family that was having problems the night before. The Scots don't have enough money for another ticket and aren't certain they've been robbed, and so confront the young Albanian woman (Blerta Cahani) with their suspicions. She ends up having to explain her family's entire experience of the last few days, in a desperate attempt to avoid the law.
Tickets is about character interaction in a specific time and place, and with that simple foundation creates a positive feeling about people. The train gathers people who would never interact and encourages the working out of problems large and small in a relatively intimate setting. The conductors aren't above bending the rules to keep the peace. The self-absorbed professor reaches out to others in need. The confined space makes Filippo's humiliating servitude too much to bear. and the Scots lads may be rowdies but they also identify with underdogs in worse trouble than they are. Tickets is a satisfying drama about how real people are living in today's post - 9/11 world, with tighter security and a heightened awareness of the strangers around them.
Facets presents Tickets in a handsome quality transfer that looks quite good. The letterboxed transfer is enhanced for widescreen. Color is excellent and the audio clear. The language alternates between Italian and English, but the Scots accents are so strong, they're subtitled as well.
The extras include a still gallery showing the three directors at work and an insert booklet by Alissa Simon offering director backgrounds and filmographies. A lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette shows Olmi, Kiarostani and Loach organizing the story structure as well as filming individual segments and rehearsing their interesting selection of players. We see a lot of translating and discussion about how the stories overlap, who's in what compartment at what time and which characters are or aren't aware of characters from the other stories. Olmi is outgoing and jovial, Kiarostami leans back behind dark glasses and Loach tries to keep up with it all -- they're a fun trio of collaborators.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Video: Very Good
Supplements: "Tickets x 3: A Production Documentary featurette, still gallery, Insert Booklet
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: September 28, 2006
Republished by permission of Turner Classic Movies.
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson