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Ironically, I just saw this a day after viewing Abbas Kiarostami's
"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
cannot accept the banalities of his life, but he hasn't the foggiest idea
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:
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',
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.
Time Out is, in essence, a psychological study of a man who is in "denial"
after he loses his job as a Financial Consultant and resorts to lies and
deception to keep up the pretense of employment for the sake of his family.
Yet it is also a searing portrait of the failure of the workplace to provide
a nurturing environment for people (not a theme much explored in the
Hollywood assembly line these days).
Time Out is a subtle, involving, and truly perceptive film that deals with the shallow, conformist world of middle management. It depicts how an individual's identity can be so wrapped up in what they do that they can scarcely remember who they really are and what is most meaningful in their life. As Jonathan Rosenbaum has pointed out, it is reminiscent of Melville's "Bartelby the Scrivener" in its depiction of a banal middle-aged businessman who would just prefer not to tell the truth.
Aurélien Recoing (a popular French stage actor) plays Vincent, who is so detached from reality he goes through the motions of pretending to work for the United Nations on a development mission. His "job" is conveniently based away from his wife and three children in Switzerland. Here he spends his hours driving around in his car, going in and out of hotels and conference rooms, exerting as much energy in his pretense as he would if he were actually working. I think the point is that his "pretend" job is different only in degree from his former "real" one.
Cantet uses the business world with its offices, hotels, and associates to portray an individual whose day-to-day activity consists only in constructing a false life. Vincent has to resort to obtaining money under false pretenses from his friends and his father and to assist a petty criminal in his smuggling attempts. For all his lies, Vincent confesses how suffocating his job has been. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do," he cries to his wife, under the pretense of discussing his non-existent new position.
As he stands on the outside looking in, he slowly loses touch with everything that has given his life meaning. His family, who he truly loves, also cannot provide the emotional support he needs. The impression is that the lack of emotional expression, the failure to communicate, and the skimming along on the surface of life is not new to this family. These are the same people who live next door to you, always happy and smiling who seem to have it together until a crisis comes. Then, they have no inner strength to deal with it.
A middle-aged middle class family man has a mid-life crisis.
Hardly an inspiring or original idea, yet Laurent Cantet creates a quite devastating and compelling landscape of one man's internal terror - terror at his situation and complete inability to express his feelings.
Through Cantet, a combination of economic script, astonishingly sparse and subtle performances, and Pook's deeply moving musical score, takes the viewer on a journey of displaced despair and futile attempts to paper over the cracks. Recoing is captivating, his face a turmoil of quiet bewilderment and pain, and he is ably matched by Viard as his increasingly unsettled partner. The penultimate scene between Recoing, Viard and their children is quite astonishing for its tension and disquiet.
In the end, however, the final scene says it all. Recoing's face tells us everything we need to know, and he really should have won every award going for this brilliant performance. Once again the French film industry shows us all how to make films.
Has anybody ever set up a truck stop shot more magnificently?
This film is the full ten thing. Cast is spectacular, the photography superb, the unobtrusive music on the money, the story and its effects on the life of a family, affecting. Subtlety is a hallmark here. If you don't know the story line it must be even more powerful in a first viewing. As Fellini made at least two films that can be seen as defining the male of the Catholic/Italian species (8 1/2 & Amarcord) this magnificent film from France from a director I am not familiar with, defines "the problem of being male." I was fully involved and unable to complete a sentence for twenty minutes after the lights went up. But it is just not male identification at work here. It is the anguish and plight of the wife, magnificently played by Karen Viard, or the children who are as confused and anxious as any of us. The father, a very French man with a franc or euro, even redeems himself with love and compassion. And the "unsavory" seller of bogus goods who rescues our Vincent by offering employment, comes through swimmingly with compassion and understanding. I can not recommend this film enough. Please see it.
"Time Out" seems to be the wrong translation for "L'emploi du temps".
Laurent Cantet, the brilliant French director has given us a film that
has a hypnotic quality and makes the viewer thinks. M. Cantet also
wrote the material for the movie with Robin Campillo. This is, without
a doubt, one of the most satisfying films coming from France in recent
memory. As he proved with his "Human Resources", M. Cantet loves to
present us stories in which characters are at the crossroads of their
lives facing dilemmas related to things in the work environment.
If you haven't watched the film, perhaps you should like to stop reading now.
Vincent, the main character of "Time Out", is seen at the beginning of the film driving aimlessly through rural France, stopping at rest stops to sleep, buying things at roadside shops, or just idling around. When he calls his wife Muriel in his cell phone, we hear banal conversation between a married couple where the husband is calling home to check on his family. The only trouble is that Vincent is unemployed and he is reluctant to break the news to the family.
This man has a lovely wife, three normal children. His parents seem to have a good relationship with him. We see no sight of conflict. That is why so hard to understand what makes Vincent tick. Is it shame? Is it an ego thing? Is it his pride? Nothing seems to answer our questions because for all appearances, he is a normal person.
When Vincent hints about the possibility of a job in Geneva with the UN, his father, as well as the rest of the family believes him. Vincent witnesses a meeting in the UN building about the investment opportunities in Africa and how is that body going to be instrumental in helping the emerging economies. Suddenly, Vincent makes a plan to get some of his friends part with their savings by inventing a sure plan with incredible returns. In a way, it seems that people will be reluctant of schemes such as this one, but obviously, greed play a great deal in their minds and they give money to any charlatan. I know it first hand since I have a close friend that lost a lot of money this way, even though he understood about the risks involved.
Jean Michel, the mysterious man that happens to overhear Vincent pitching the idea to prospective investors, realizes the impossibility of the scheme. Vincent tells him about his plight and Jean Michel offers him a job helping him smuggle the counterfeit merchandise that makes a lot of money.
Unfortunately for liars, discovery is only a phone call away. Muriel finds out the truth and confronts Vincent about it. She tells her father in law, who has given an obscene amount of money to Vincent. When the father arrives at the house, Vincent flees into the night to the comforting highways that have become his best friends because they don't ask anything of him. Eventually, Vincent is seen calling Muriel from a roadside. She pleads with him to come home, but he refuses. The turmoil within his soul will not let him see the end of the tunnel. In his own mind, there is no solution for the problem he created.
The director hints to an easy solution for Vincent with an imminent suicide, but no. In the last sequence that ends the picture, we watch a Vincent dressed all in black being interviewed for a job that his father has been instrumental in securing for him. Are we seeing the truth, or are we seeing what the director has brilliantly done in order to get take us to a possibility that will register as the solution in our minds. The only thing is M. Cantet has left us clues about what really becomes of Vincent.
Aurelien Recoing, is a terrific actor. As times he reminds us of Kevin Spacey, and at times, he resembles a more ethereal James Gandolfini, but make no mistake, M. Recoing is an actor who captured the essence of the troubled Vincent. As Muriel, Karin Viard, is perfect. She gives a restrained performance. Also, Serge Livrozet, the kind Jean Michel, makes a wonderful appearance.
We await for the next work by the amazing Laurent Cantet.
There is a telling moment toward the end of the new French film
L'Emploi Du temps (Time Out) when the main protagonist confides to
another character that he hated his previous job so much that many
times while driving to a designated business appointment he would
intentionally miss the appropriate exit and continue driving aimlessly
, not wanting to leave his car. This behavior eventually results in his
dismissal , a fact he hides from his family.
A white collar worker who has lost enthusiasm for his job , Vincent spends each "work day" sitting in public parks and eateries fabricating imaginary business meetings and appointments , talking to his wife on a cell phone and promising her that he will be home soon ; for supposed longer trips he sleeps in his car at night , interrupted at times by parking lot security who gruffly tell him to leave, What follows is a devastating tale of lies and more lies , of eroding relationships with wife , children , parents and friends. Vincent finds himself in a nether world and this film's director , Laurent Cantet , brings a chillingly cold but compassionate eye to the proceedings. Curtly refusing help from a former friend and business associate who is aware of his predicament , Vincent becomes enmeshed in a labyrinth of deceitful money making schemes. If all this seems like so much high melodrama , be assured that Mr. Cantet has painted as naturalistic a portrait of one man's modern day angst as has been seen on the screen in many a moon. Here is a filmmaker who possesses a keen eye for ordinary , everyday life. What distinguishes this magnificent film from most contemporary releases is its total lack of artifice. Each sequence in this riveting movie is so spontaneous that it convinces the viewer that what is happening is real. Much of the credit for this must go to Aurelien Recoing as Vincent. A handsome French actor , he portrays a likable fellow encroaching middle age who has lost his way ; as the film progresses , his sturdy frame becomes weighed down as much from literally running away from home and responsibilities as running from himself. Equally impressive is Karin Viard as Vincent's loving but exasperated wife. The movie also benefits immeasurably from the director's penchant for casting on professionals in supporting roles , no better an example than the presence of Serge Livrozet as a petty crook , a character who serves as an important catalyst for the film's gripping denouement. Mr. Livrozet , who acts with the authority of a seasoned professional and turns in a brilliant performance , is in real life an ex-convict who apparently lived the life he portrays on screen. This adds a verisimilitude that makes watching this movie such a sobering experience. As spontaneous as this picture feels , it doesn't lack for a meticulous production design. Elegant camera work , carefully appropriated sets ( the interiors of the Geneva office building Vincent wanders through look as though they were photographed and designed by Stanley Kubrick ) add to the chilly atmosphere. Jocelyn Pook's melancholy chamber music seems suffocatingly oppressive at first but achieves an overwhelming resonance at the story's climax. One man's isolation may not seem like an earth shaking subject for a movie.
Playwrights from Becket to Genet to Miller have traversed this area very eloquently in the past. But Laurent Cantet has fashioned a modern day morality tale that very quietly and methodically builds to a fever pitch of anger , loss and sorrow. The final scene of this film is devastating ; it will fill you with contradictory emotions. It is one of the great endings in movies. L'Emploi Du temps is a giant of a film , a masterpiece for our time.
TIME OUT (Laurent Cantet - France 2001).
The English language title Time Out is not entirely fitting. Perhaps Time Running Out would be a more appropriate title, since this is exactly what Vincent, the main character, is going through.
Vincent (Aurélien Recoing) is a highly motivated financial consultant. Or, at least, that's what he used to be. Fact of the matter is, he lost his job three months ago and now concocts an elaborate facade to cover up the fact he is now unemployed. While his wife, Muriel (Karin Viard), thinks he's at work, Vincent is aimlessly roaming the highways, hanging out at rest stops, and sleeping in his car, regularly calling his wife to give her an update about his next meeting and apologizing for coming home late, before turning in for his overnight stay in his car. Vincent lives like a ghost, increasingly detached from his wife, children and former colleagues, he doesn't seem to realize the truth is closing in. One day, they will find out. But Vincent has gotten to a point where he's constructed his own dream world. He resorts to reading all kinds of economic pamphlets about his apparent line of business, studying and memorizing them like he really is active in this line of work. As Vincent needs money, he makes up a plan to defraud old friends and his parents out of their savings by letting them in on some bogus investment scheme. He conducts his business out of a hotel lounge, where he catches the eye of Jean-Michel (Serge Livrozet, a brilliant role), a "real" , experienced operator who immediately recognizes Vincent is a fraud. He offers Vincent a job in his own operation, meaning some extra pocket money and perhaps even a way out of his increasingly sticky situation.
Director Cantet's style is distinctly unflashy. Set against the wintry landscapes of Rhône-Alpes around Grenoble and Annecy, the film makes very good use of its locations. Whether it's the bland office complexes in the "zones commerciales" at the outskirts of anonymous towns, or the snow-clad mountains surrounding them, it seems to blend perfectly with the film's tone. Accompanied by a beautiful classical score, Cantet shows himself a remarkably sharp and observant storyteller. Although the film maintains interest throughout, the running time of 132 minutes did seem a tad long, and Vincent's lengthy economic arguments when conning his friends and relatives (some of them business men themselves) out of their money weren't terribly convincing. His arguments range from unconvincing to downright nonsense. At least he would'n have convinced me, but even my 91 year old grandmother wouldn't have bought any of this for a moment. But, some of these inconsistencies aside, this is a skilfully constructed film and an engrossing psychological drama that slowly unfolds like a thriller with a brilliant performance by Aurélien Recoing to top it off.
Camera Obscura --- 8/10
When Vincent--a tall, quiet, morose middle-aged man--is fired from his job, he finds himself unexpectedly cut loose from society and set adrift from life as he knows it. Instead of looking for a job, he casually cons some family and friends out of substantial chunks of money in order to support his wife and three children while he spends week after week driving through the European countryside in winter. A subdued but inescapable tension builds for the audience as we continually fail to understand what motivates Vincent to risk so much, and this tension becomes only more profound when we realize that Vincent himself does not understand his actions. "Time Out" is a hypnotically sad story told at a measured, melancholy pace with a haunting musical score that circumscribes Vincent's strange, incomprehensible mystery.
French screenwriter and director Laurent Cantet's second feature film
which he co-wrote with his frequent collaborator Robin Campillo, is
loosely based on the life story of French impostor and murderer Jean
Claude-Romand. It tells the story about a middle-aged man named Vincent
who lives in France with his wife named Muriel and their three
children. Vincent is a busy man who spends most of his time on the
road, on business trips and in meetings, but he hardly ever shares
anything about his professional life with his wife who spends most of
her time at home with her children. Vincent has recently lost his job,
but instead of telling this to his family he invents a false story
about being offered a new prestigious job in Genova. Vincent is
determined to maintain a certain facade, but his betrayal begins to
occupy his every breath and suddenly he finds himself deceiving not
only his parents, his wife and his children, but also his closest
French filmmaker Laurent Cantet's stylistically and precisely directed fictional tale about a man who in fear of losing face and letting his family down entangles himself in an increasing circle of lies which distances him furthermore from his loved ones, draws a realistic portrayal of a man living in a united and competitive society where the value of success and status apparently has more significance than humane values. This pervasive study of character which examines themes such as family relations, interpersonal relations, alienation, betrayal and love, is a finely paced and character-driven story with naturalistic milieu depictions, notable cinematography by the director's frequent collaborator and cinematographer Pierre Milon and with an effective score by British composer Jocelyn Pook which underlines the poignant atmosphere.
This throughout riveting independent film which was produced by Caroline Benjo who has produced most of Laurent Cantet's feature films, is brilliantly narrated and functions both as a psychological drama and a subtle thriller. An austere, gripping and detailed character drama with remarkable acting performances by French actor Aurélien Recoing and French actress Karin Viard which gained, among other awards, the Don Quixote Award at the 58th Venice Film Festival in 2001.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Vincent has recently been fired from his job as a financial planner. He
had been living an upper middle class life in eastern France--nice
home, loving wife, three young kids. He does not tell his family about
his being fired, and not just because he does not want to face the
humiliation. He remarks that his old job used to require his driving
long distances and that was the only time he was happy. He said that he
could just drive forever listening to music in a thoughtless state. In
fact, that is how he lost his job, he would be so in the moment when
driving that he would miss his turnoffs. That seems to be what Vincent
wants, just to cruise in neutral without the obligations of job and
When Vincent lost his job he entered into a sort of fantasy world where he made up a position as a worker for the United Nations as a manager who would set up teams of managers to set up companies in Africa. He would seek and get investors based on this falsehood. Lest this scam sounds unbelievable, recall that this was in a time when any crazy scheme seemed to be making money and investors wanted in on the action (think Bernie Madoff). It's ironic that the job environment that Vincent had been cut loose from endowed him with the skills to run the scam he did.
When Vincent walks the halls of various businesses, where people are in meetings, exchanges are taking place between boss and secretary, phone calls are being taken, paperwork being filled out, it looks like important stuff is happening. But the undercurrent is that there is more busywork going on than anything of value. However, you do see the human value of belonging to the social structure of a corporation.
As Vincent, Aurélien Recoing is skillful in capturing the illusory world that he has entered. Karin Viard, as Vincent's caring and concerned wife, is particularly good.
At some level Vincent knows that his time out must end. As evidence of this we see him paying back a friend that he had taken money from as an investor. There is a powerful scene toward the end where Vincent's whole family confronts him and he absconds by jumping out the window. From there he literally spends time lost in the wilderness.
The final scene has Vincent being offered a high level job where he would have a staff of eight and a lot of responsibility. You would think that that would be a happy ending, but as Vincent's eyes slid to the side as the job was being explained to him, this was for me a depressing ending, since I sensed he was soon going to be right back where he was when he was wandering in the dark. It will be but another chapter in the life of a man who never really made a decision about what he wanted to do, but rather just went with the flow and followed the money and society's pressures. It is a commentary on how so many well paying jobs now amount to moving bits around in computer memories, and dealing with paperwork and phone calls. And how for many people those jobs provide such little meaning and satisfaction.
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