More benign than Three…Extremes and less uneven than Eros, Tickets offers a triptych of slender yet genuine delights. Following the format popularized in the ’60s by European omnibus features, the film huddles a trio of directors around a shared theme and lets the diligent auteurists sort them out: Here, it’s the alluring aspect of Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, and Ken Loach observing life on a train from Central Europe to Rome. Olmi’s lyrical opening is above all a reminder of the Italian director’s delicacy of observation, a gift often forgotten in the more assertive shadows of Antonioni, Fellini, and Bertolucci. The story about the fleeting connection between an elderly scientist (Carlo Delle Piane) and a kind, young PR woman (Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi) is only half-sketched, but Olmi’s temporal density and hushed passion bring to mind a compressed version of his 1963 masterpiece I Fidanzati. Kiarostami’s central segment views a less ethereal bond between youth and old age as a testy Army widow (Silvana De Santis) chastises her meek, twentysomething traveling companion (Filippo Trojano); the young passenger’s brief encounter with a friend brings forth the middle-aged woman’s unreasonable bile, yet it’s typical of the Iranian master’s poetry that the character who most stubbornly refuses sympathy emerges with one of the film’s most affecting moments as her emotional frailty is gradually drawn out of her irritable exterior. Three rowdy Scottish soccer fans (including Sweet Sixteen’s William Ruane) razz, flirt, and fight aboard Loach’s concluding segment, until a meeting with a displaced Albanian family in their car tempers scrappy comedy with moral decisions. Tickets holds together more effortlessly than most recent anthologies, although its visual evenness scarcely denies the directors their stylistic trademarks: Olmi’s braiding of fantasy and memory permeates the first section, Kiarostami’s car-windshield-as-film-screen frames are visible in his every camera placement, and Loach’s politicized grit can easily be traced long before the first “For fuck’s sake!” exclamation. Life here is one extended train ride, and a quiet but intense sensitivity to its detours and stops is what ultimately binds the three illustrious auteurs and gives the picture its unstressed loveliness.
A far from sharp but pleasing transfer captures some of the smooth visual consistency of the picture, although flecks become prominent toward the end, perhaps reflecting Loach’s preference for the unvarnished. The surround soundtrack peaks early during Olmi’s segment, but remains solid all the way through.
The 55-minute behind-the-scenes documentary "Tickets x 3" is the only substantial extra, but its footage of the three directors is invaluable: Loach sets up a camera shot with a rigor that bellies the rough-hewn look of his work, Kiarostami coaches his actors to reveal their characters with the smallest of gestures, while Olmi lets out a childlike smile from behind the camera as Valerie Bruni-Tedeschi’s face lights up on the screen. A booklet outlines the origin of the project, and a still gallery rounds out the disc.
With Olmi, Kiarostami, and Loach aboard, this is a train certainly worth hopping.