The 35-hour work week has all of France in its thrall. This film turns it into a feature about economic and familial politics. Frank, a business school graduate, returns to his provincial ... See full summary »
In December of 1999, François organizes a retreat to a small island for himself, some friends, and their children to avoid the craziness of Paris during the turn of the millennium. Things ... See full summary »
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
Ironically, I just saw this a day after viewing Abbas Kiarostami's brilliant "Close Up", a story of a man who could no longer accept the endless banalities of his life and decided to become someone else (a film director!). That man had no sense of identity about himself but he knew what he cared about and what he believed in (the power of art and cinema). That brings him one up on the hero of this story. Vincent is a man who also cannot accept the banalities of his life, but he hasn't the foggiest idea of who he is or what he really cares about. It's as if he was born out of a computer software program. He knows what he's supposed to care about: nice home, nice car, nice bank account... But his work as an investor is so deprived of any human value that he loses all sense of values. His environment; a sterile, generic, upper middle-class vacuum that could make one believe that all of France has turned into Silicon Valley with a touch of the Scandinavian, has none of the passion or warmth that one identifies with being human. He has a loving wife, but according to his 'program', he believes that he would lose her if she knew that he was no longer able to function as a cog in the machine, and provide her with the lifestyle that she has grown accustomed to.
That is the first tragedy of Vincent, because his wife really does love him. The second tragedy of Vincent, is that even though he recognizes his need for freedom, he doesn't know how to use it. He's like a man who has been released from a lifetime of imprisonment, but still hangs around the prison yard because he is unable to comprehend what might be available to him. He'd lost his job because his love for being free was more important to him than keeping his appointments, but most of his time spent in his new-found freedom is in doing the same job he'd done before: investments. The only difference now is that he likes to believe that the investments are helping developing Third World countries. He knows that there really are no investments (he keeps the money that people give him and spends it on a nifty Range Rover, among other things), but momentarily, he can feel as if he is 'somebody' to his family and friends when he tells them of this meaningful new job he (allegedly) has.
Vincent has been described by many as 'everyman', but I think of him more as 'everyman who has just stepped through the looking glass'. Instead of taking a good, hard look at himself, he somehow ended up taking a look beyond himself because he could not find a reflection. He can't even recognize how much he's patterned his children to follow the same program he did. We see him teaching his kindergarten-age son how to 'hard sell' his toys at a school fair. Later, in a fascinating scene, we see him and his family doing what most people of his class do in their free time. They go shopping in an upscale, overpriced store to buy clothing that they know they don't really need. Vincent has it all, but it fills nothing in him. His family has it all, yet they don't seem to question the fact that they rarely spend any time together.
Laurent Candet has created a beautifully somber and sober look at the price of 'success'. The film is practically drained of all color, save for blues and grays, to illustrate the life force that has been systematically drained from Vincent throughout his life. And the score, a somber cello piece, refreshingly accentuates Vincent's mind instead of his actions (like most scores do). It is like a slow-moving merry-go-round that brings on a sense of familiarity that is simultaneously comfortable and unnerving. Because what the gist of it all is: is that no one wants to spend their life on a merry-go-round. Even a comfortable one.
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