Human Georgraphy

Human Georgraphy


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

French director Claire Simon has two films in the selection at Locarno - one a documentary set in the confines of the Gare du Nord in Paris, the third biggest station in the world, and a fiction titled Gare du Nord (so far, unseen), which sprang from the material she had gathered and stars Nicole Garcia.

In the documentary, Simon delivers an uneven patchwork of humanity going about its business and observed at close quarters in random interviews - whether its two gay guys saying a sweet farewell after a weekend tryst, two young Brits on a romantic weekend to the City of Light, or a North African woman musing on her plight as a cloakroom cleaner.

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The director is endlessly intrigued by the melting pot of a station which intermingles immigrants with European business and tourist travellers and suburbanites giving us glimpses and insights into lives that normally pass by unexplored. The Gare du Nord is perfect for this purpose because it combines no less than six stations under one roof - the Metro, the suburban lines, the regional trains, the main line routes, Eurostar and a bus station.

Simon, a habitual fly on the wall filmmaker, is aided and abetted by Simon Mérabet, the son of Algerian immigrants from the Var region of France whose low profile technique encourages even the most reticent of subjects to open up to reveal their inner-most thoughts and circumstances. Simon too plays her part as an off-camera interlocutor.

The themes of how globalisation affects personal destinies becomes evident as one individual story follows another with geographical and economic pressures impinging on the personal.

The edit could have been tighter yet there is something about Simon's leisurely meanderings that exert a undeniably mesmeric fascination.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2013
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Documentary about the Gare du Nord station in Paris.

Director: Claire Simon

Writer: Claire Simon

Year: 2013

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: France


Locarno 2013

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