The Passengers of the Night: the new wonder of Mikhaël Hers [critique]

Four years after the emotional shock Amanda, Hers this time visits the Paris of the 80s where characters who want to believe in the mirages of life are embodied. Magnificent.

The double territory of the new film by Mikhaël Hers (Amanda…) is embodied from the outset in a magnificently expressive shot: the face of a young girl is superimposed on a map of the Paris metro on which magnifying glasses flash like so many destinations towards an inevitably promising stranger. Paris. The 80s. Two compasses, two fantasies. On the one hand, a cinema-city worn to the bone, on the other, a not-so-distant era, extirpated from limbo to keep a priori only the wild and vaguely ecstatic beauty (it, in fact, began with the election of Mitterrand and its finally singing aftermath). We recently rediscovered in new copies the electric and prophetic Snow (1981) by Jean-Henri Roger and Juliet Berto, a formidable film of shady adventures in the heart of Pigalle, where the neon light poeticized sadness without ever betraying it. Since our 2020s, Hers can only keep his distance. Politics is at best an obsolete archive showing a youth eager to believe in it. Its passengers of the night are on the periphery of the wide world. From the wide windows of Elisabeth’s (Charlotte Gainsbourg) apartment, there are towers. The Paris Nouvelle Vague is certainly not very far but only exists as a quotation (cf. Le Grand Action cinema where the heroes, for lack of birdie find themselves in front Full Moon Nights) or haunted place (the ghost of Rivette crossed in the subway). The magic of this film is entirely in this almost indescribable way of merging its characters with the framework in which they fit. The different textures of the image, witnesses of scattered grafts (rediscovered past, redecorated present), allow the story to be inscribed in a fragile, hybrid, timeless, almost transitory moment. And in fact Elisabeth is herself at a crossroads. Recently divorced, she takes care of her two teenagers who inevitably escape her and clings to a young homeless (wonderful Noée Abita) who arrived almost by chance. In this in-between, the city promises nothing. Elisabeth works at night at the switchboard of a radio for a host with a soft voice (Emmanuelle Béart) guardian of her own loneliness and those of others. Alone, then, but never quite. Passengers of the nightis a marvelous film, whose re-enchantment it promises is in no way illusory since everyone here wants to believe it.

By Mikhaël Hers. With: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Noée Abita, Emmanuelle Béart… Duration: 1h51. Released May 4, 2022

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