In Transit Screen 91 of 14 reviews

In Transit

2015

In Transit Poster
  • The remarkable, rather holistic, magic of this lovely film is how all the little human stories that Albert Maysles peers in on in between don't just attest to a nation's sense of yearning but to a belief that our capacity for common decency ain't dead yet. Read a tweet by 45 today? Watch this film and heal thyself.

  • Considering that "in Transit" has no main character—unless you count the train itself—it is a remarkably coherent work. It clocks in at brisk 75 minutes and giving us tantalizing glimpses into people's lives that suggest the totality of their experience while leaving us wanting more.

  • This new work, finished posthumously, is one of the most expansive and inclusive [Maysles has] attached his name to, both in terms of geographical sweep and size of its cast... It’s a simple, kind, skillfully made film that doesn’t mean to jerk tears from the viewer on any obvious level, but arriving as it does in the first half of 2017, it seems like a vital dispatch of hope, sent as a gift from the front lines where lives are lived.

  • The film is gently thrilling, often revealing, alive with talk and scenic beauty and well-observed vignettes. It was shot in 2013 and ’14, so nobody mentions Trump. It’s 76 minutes of Americans at the best and kindest. It’s a vacation.

  • Its thematic organization suggests the cinematic equivalent of a short-story collection, with haunting tangents and stray notes of poetry. Maysles and his collaborators contrast gorgeous compositions of the stark yet beautiful Midwest with the sleek contours of the train's interior, along with the plaintive vulnerability of the Empire Builder's passengers, while uncovering grace notes such as the rustling of an overnight chamber's curtains from the movement of the train.

  • ++

    Cine-File Chicago: James Stroble
    April 01, 2016 | DOC10

    After over half a century of filmmaking, Maysles' IN TRANSIT is a fitting coda that manages to be just as genuinely curios and collaborative as anything we've seen from the director.

  • With a shocking intimacy, the film captures the dreams and frustrations of this diverse group, who are all connected by being in transit, which comes to mean different things for each of them. The filmmakers are able to draw a wonderful and intense pathos from each of these short encounters, and the movie is a simple but vivid picture of humanity.

  • In Transit could be seen as a poetic encapsulation of Maysles' own nonfiction art: Just as many of the featured passengers may not necessarily know where they're headed in their lives, Maysles himself dared to make films without firm conclusions in mind, discovering them as he made them. He was more interested in the journey than in the destination; judging by this eloquent final testament, that openness toward the surprises of life and people remained heartrendingly constant until the very end.

  • The cumulative effect of all of this is extremely profound. Human beings are treated with gentleness in "In Transit", and so, in that environment, their hopes, dreams, worries, concerns, are allowed room to express themselves with no fear.

  • Always in motion, as its title suggests, Maysles's swan song embeds itself with the huddled masses on Amtrak's Empire Builder line, where strangers chat intimately, poetic moments are caught, and cross-country adventures are had by all. Nobody could mine the humor, humility, and humanity in the mundane like Maysles, for whose many fans this film will serve as a fitting elegy. It's beautifully moving, and not just on rails.

  • Though there’s definitely the potential for the film to stray into something of an emotionally charged infomercial for Amtrak and the Empire Builder, the filmmakers temper this through the integral focus on real human stories, even those of the employees themselves. Maysles’ swansong is moving, unpretentious and wholly endearing, with fingerprints of the restraint and skill of a master documentarian all over it.

  • In Transit has a go-west-young-man romanticism, and plenty of humanism, as the film observes all these people, and more, sharing their hopes and fears, dreams and expectations. It rarely comes off as maudlin because of the filmmakers’ restraint and distance to the subjects, never pausing for too long on a person, but shuttling between different people and different spaces within and without the train.

  • At first blush, some of the parallels In Transit draws between its interviewees feel facile and underdeveloped—but the film slyly shifts form, sometimes turning unsettling on a dime, like when a passenger mid-ramble is angrily rebuked another one for their assumptions of privilege. Whatever thread is made between the filmmakers and their subjects, In Transit does well to acknowledge its passing fragility.

  • For better and worse, Maysles and his team don’t impose any sort of grand philosophical thesis on these random encounters. The notion of wanting to pick up stakes and restart your life in a new location recurs throughout, but the film (which runs a brisk 76 minutes) is mostly content just to sample the populace, trusting in humanity itself to hold the viewer’s interest.

More Links