Gut-wrenching portrayal of the banal cruelty of modern employment
This is a Mike Leigh/Ken Loach-style drama, great contemporary social realism, French style, and all the better for it.
A middle-aged man's existence becomes precarious after he's laid-off from his skilled job. Transitioning via the unemployment industry to supermarket security guard is the challenge for our hero. His dialogue with petty bureaucracy is obviously the same in France as it is here. There is claustrophobia and frustration with the relentless, compassionless uselessness of the so-called support.
Witnessing with him a check-out worker's send-off after a lifetime on the job is suitably excruciating. The young, new boss has the honour of fare-welling simple, loyal Gisele who always smiles and was never late in 32 years; a career trajectory from the check-out to the deli section.
The little guy or gal, when he falls out of work, is screwed, especially if he's in his 50's. There are themes of the exploitation and degradation of working life and also of the demands of caring for a disabled dependent.
The story evolves slowly, documentary style, long takes in naturalistic settings. We experience the frustrations and humiliations of the unemployment industry through his jobnetwork appointments and programs. Futlity is a theme.
There are many lovely features and brilliant, understated acting mainly from Vincent Lindon who received a five-minute standing ovation at the Cannes premiere and went on to win the best actor prize both there and in the Cesar Awards.
This is a story about personal principles in our times; a disturbing look at the banal cruelty of modern employment and the struggles and battles of life more generally. When Mike Leigh and Ken Loach have lost their mojo, director Stéphane Brizé picks up the baton for the prols and gives the audience a measured, low-key, steadily building drama with big pay-offs.
The Measure of a Man is quite gut-wrenching and brilliant in its simultaneous simplicity and complexity. It should be compulsory viewing for all supermarket managers & Centrelink and Jobnet (Australia) employees.
Let's Go To The Pictures, Three D Radio, Andrew Bunney
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