Original title: Extension du domaine de la lutte
Story of a man whose misanthropy goes out of control due to a business trip together with a colleague.Story of a man whose misanthropy goes out of control due to a business trip together with a colleague.Story of a man whose misanthropy goes out of control due to a business trip together with a colleague.
Another ray of hope in a largely bleak French cinematic landscape
Having commented a few times on the decline of recent French cinema it is always a pleasure to report the discovery of works that run counter to this trend, the films of Andre Techine for instance. Although not quite in the same league as Bresson or the best of Chabrol or Truffaut, his films are outstanding because of the compassion with which he depicts his characters, generally young men caught up in adversity. Philippe Harel has achieved something similar in "Extension du Domaine de la Lutte" with a somewhat older pair of working men who are trying to face up to the fact that life is proving a disappointment. "Our hero", as the unseen voice-over narrator refers to him, is a computer systems salesman who, nearing his forties, has had no luck in attracting feminine affection. He lives alone and is unhappy and unfulfilled in his work. The youthful promise and enthusiasm for life glimpsed only in boyhood photographs have been drained out of him and he has all but given up on finding a lasting relationship. His colleague with whom he is obliged to share a sales promotion tour approaches a similar sexual predicament in a different way. Shorter and uglier he has adopted a defence mechanism of bravado and the bonhomie of the blue joke teller. He refuses to retire into his shell to the extent of continually looking for conquests in nightclubs. These always end in rebuttal with tragedy the eventual inevitable outcome. "Our hero" on the other hand finds a different sort of defence mechanism in voluntarily committing himself to a mental institution when no longer able to cope with normal relationships at his workplace. The film's conclusion is open-ended in its suggestion that he might be on the verge of finding a relationship but it only hints at the possibility. Such an outcome is by no means certain. The director has elected to play the central role and a remarkable job he has made of it, balancing stoicism with self-pity most convincingly. That we are offered such a three-dimensional view of his character is largely due to the way Harel shares that most French device, the voice-over commentary, between two narrators, an unseen storyteller and the character himself. The alternation of the two voices illuminates the central character in a way that justifies this narrative device more effectively than I can remember from any other film.
- Jul 30, 2003
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