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Recently fired from his job, but unable to confess the truth to his close-knit family, Vincent spends his days driving around the countryside, talking into his cell phone and staring into space. Vincent fabricates a new job for himself so his family and friends will not know that he is out of work. At one point, he even sneaks into an office building. As Vincent roams the building's sterile halls, peeking into meeting rooms where men are busy at work, we see a man who yearns not just for a new job, but also for a place in the world. While this pantomime of work initially registers as sad and even a little pathetic, it slowly and unnervingly becomes terrifying. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Vincent's oblivious journey in taking some time out for himself became "une grande illusion"
The beginning shot as the credits appear looks so painterly - the soft tone seemed serenely neutral - not until a slight movement in the picture do I realize what we're looking at and where the scene is. This is another film (previously I commented on "World Traveler") distributed by ThinkFilm, whose company logo has the ' i ' upside down in 'Think.' TIME OUT is challenging for the camera: there's quite a percentage of time we spend with central character Vincent (a distinctive, subtle portrayal from Aurélien Recoing) inside a car, on the road at night time, out in the fog or rain, even scenes with extensive snow and whiteness all around. Cinematographer Pierre Milon skillfully delivered.
The English film title "Time Out" could suggest just that: Vincent needs to 'time out,' pause and take a look at his life so far. The French title "L'emploi du temps" indicates the use of the occasion, which Vincent certainly does: he's literally taking the 'given' time, making use of it by giving himself a break from the accumulated stress at work and mounting expectations at home. He looks at ease being out of his 9-year long corporate position. He enjoys being alone by himself driving and singing along to a tune. Such bliss.
It's stress putting on a mask. Solitude is the temporary palliative. For a while Vincent is in control of the situation at hand. Even managed to transiently delight Muriel, his dear wife. When will this play-acting - lying without a blink, stop? When the tap is finally loosen a bit - meeting Jean-Michel, the bottled up truth released. How relieving to pour out to a total stranger. It's a respite: he's actually happy not having to exhaust himself in weaving his lies, keeping up a front, hustling friends and father for finances.
Again, as in director Laurent Cantet's previous film "Ressources humaines," there is the latent gap between father and son. Candid communication and patient understanding from both sides are dearly lacking. In TIME OUT, Vincent is often on the road and away from home and family (a schoolteacher wife and 3 children). He assumes the family man responsibility matter of factly, unaware of the increasing chasm he's creating between himself and Muriel (sensitively portrayed by Karin Viard), even though he continues, as usual, calling her from 'work' on his cell phone, letting her know his 'whereabouts', putting up a front under his conscience-clearing rationale that "Muriel is too weak to take the news" (that he was actually fired from his job). Remorselessly he spins one small lie after another to be 'on top of' things. Will things just carry on as he blindly continues his time out? When will she find out? This is not 1957's "The Sweet Smell of Success" or 1991's "Chameleon Street" (both excellent films). TIME OUT is very much its own powerful medium, poignantly depicts the dormant treachery of modern work life and demanding family ideals. (Almost shades of director Bryan Forbes 1975's "The Stepford Wives" - reverse gender, I felt.)
Writer-director Cantet seems to know corporate jargon/language quite well: in both his films, he incorporated perceptively in the script the ways of big business in studious detail. "Human Resources" 1999 and "Time Out" 2001 are well worth the filmic experience - more than meets the eye, for sure.
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