Dirs:Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach. It-UK. 2005. 118mins.

Three famous directors joining forces to direct one film is not new, but Ticketsdiffers from other recent "celebrity trio" showcases (Eros, ThreeExtremes) in that its film-makers share the same setting, some of the samecharacters and the same screenplay (or, in the case of Loach, his regularscreenwriter Paul Laverty).

Butthe unity is only skin deep: it's quite clear that this train has threedifferent drivers: the elegaic dreamer (Olmi), the sardonic observer(Kiarostami) and the good old-fashioned political message man (Loach).

Cineasteswith trainspotting tendencies cannot afford to miss this one, but regular filmbuffs may come away feeling short changed. Tickets is a slight, fragilecurio with some enjoyable moments, but it never gels into a satisfying film,and - with the exception of the final, Loachian section - fails to follow itscharacters through to any kind of closure and resolution.

Thoughit has some moments, and characters, that stick in the mind, Tickets isultimately an intermittently interesting exercise rather than a great trainmovie in the mould of Strangers On A Train or The Narrow Margin.

Itwill undoubtedly be given an energetic Italian release by Fandango, themajority co-producer, but in other territories it is likely to be switched ontoone of the shorter arthouse branch lines.

VeteranItalian director Olmi (The Tree Of Wooden Clogs, The Legend Of TheHoly Drinker) departs with the weakest of the three episodes. SeasonedItalian character actor Carlo Delle Piane plays an elderly professor who isforced to take the train back to Rome from Switzerland when his flight iscancelled due to bad weather. In a series of rather stilted close-ups, Olmi'scinematographer son Fabio dwells on Delle Piane's sad, quizzical face and thefrozen, simpering smile worn by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi - whose CV is hardlyembellished by this saccharine performance as the personal assistant whoarranges the professor's tickets.

Onthe train, the love-struck professor begins to type an email to la signora, butnever finishes it; an act of kindness serves instead to bring him down toearth, and the baton is somehow fumbled forward to Kiarostami in a brief segueof rushing wheels.

TheIranian director ups the tempo with an odd little story that centres on abattleaxe of a widow and her long-suffering younger male companion. Kiarostamiplays with our expectations - Filippo, the companion, turns out to be neitherson nor gigolo - and with our sympathies, forcing us, in the end, to side witha lonely woman (a fine performance by Silvana De Santis) who had seemed a meremonster.

Butthe rather cerebral drama of this middle stretch has no chance to gel beforeLoach kicks in with a classic, rabble-rousing parable in which prejudices areovercome and underdogs (Celtic supporters, impoverished Albanians and AC Romasupporters in the present instance) join forces to cock a snoot at authority.

Thisis the only one of the three sections that moves along at the speed of anintercity express. But pacing is not the only problem: with each of thedirectors using his own cameraman, editor and crew (only costume and productiondesign were pooled), there is an unevenness about the final product that wouldnot matter in a standard portmanteau film but is irksome when possibly more isexpected of a collaborative effort.

Prod cos: Fandango, Sixteen Film
Int'l sales:
The Works
Carlo Cresto-Dina, BabakKarimi, Rebecca O'Brien, Domenico Procacci
Ermanno Olmi, AbbasKiarostami, Paul Laverty
Fabio Olmi, Mahmoud Kalari,Chris Menges
Prod des:
Alessandro Vannucci
Giovanni Ziberna, BabakKarimi, Jonathan Morris
George Fenton
Main cast:
Carlo Delle Piane,Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Silvana De Santis, Filippo Trojano, Martin Compton,William Ruane, Gary Maitland, Blerta Cahani