No Man's Land | Chicago Reader

No Man's Land

1985

The title of Alain Tanner's melancholy 1985 film refers to the rural zone between Swiss and French customs, where a group of small-time smugglers eke out a precarious, in-between existence. Films about border tensions (La grand illusion, Touch of Evil, Luc Moullet's unjustly neglected Les contrebandieres) tend to treat their locations metaphorically, and this one is no exception, although it's also a losers' club movie in the manner of The Asphalt Jungle about a band of assorted malcontents who dream of escaping to a better life. Decorously framed and shot, with stately camera movements, lingering landscape shots, and a wonderful Terry Riley score, this movie glides along with a kind of graceful inertia that eventually defeats its spectators as well as its characters by gradually leading both to the same impasse. With Hughes Quester, Myriam Mezieres, and Jean-Philippe Ecoffey. In French with subtitles.

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