Monday, April 11, 2016

Vincent Lindon gives another great, understated performance in Stéphane Brizé's new film, THE MEASURE OF A MAN

While he's played -- and brilliantly --  everything from politicians (Pater) to husbands, sleazy (Chaos) and caring (Pour elle), Vincent Lindon (above) excels as the "ordinary guy," the "working stiff," the "everyman" of France. Lindon got two of his finest roles a few years back via writer/director Stéphane Brizé (shown below) in the great near-love story Mademoiselle Chabon and the end-of-life drama A Few Hours fo Spring.  Now, this actor's actor is back with Brizé again in a film -- THE MEASURE OF A MAN (La loi du marché) -- in which he won Best Actor both at this year's César awards and at the Cannes Film Festival.

This is a stunning movie, but so quietly does it build that it is over before it has fully sunk in. Don't worry, it won't go away, sticking with you long after the end credits have rolled. As the film unfurls to show us the current life of a fifty-one-year-old Frenchman, Thierry Taugourdaud, unemployed and given very bad suggestions and even worse implementations from his local unemployment office, we see nothing less than the state of western society today -- French style. Most of the specifics here travel easily, however: People are but corporate cogs, and it is up to the individual to assure his place, along with the place of those he loves, in the scheme of things.

The filmmaker uses his usual close-in and near-documentary style, but even more so here than in his other films I've seen. This creates a filmed world that seems remarkably like our real one, and Brizé shoots in relatively lengthy scenes that force us to see what is happening on more than merely a visual level. This allows us to experience the pain, fear, enjoyment, anger, embarrassment and all the rest that exist in these usually quiet but often fraught scenes.

We see that Thierry, the Lindon character, exists as a real person, a genuine one who expresses himself and his needs more honestly and directly than do many of those around him. This happens first at the employment office, where he tries to make the person behind the desk understand how the government has quite literally wasted almost a year of his time. Later, during the classroom session using a filmed would-be employment interview (above), we see even more of the genuineness of this man, who is not so gifted at "playing the game."

At home with his loving wife (Karin de Mirbek, above, right) and handicapped son (Matthieu Schaller, below) to whom he seems a kindly, if not overly demonstrative, dad, Thierry is more relaxed than anywhere else. So we relax, too, basking in the time our hero gets to be with those he loves. There's a dance class (to which he most likely goes to please his wife), during which there's an embarrassing but very real scene in which he must dance with the male teacher. Then later, at home, we see the results of this, and they're quite beautiful.

Brizé does not connect all his dots. We move suddenly from one time or place to another, in which we see that things have drastically changed. Now Thierry has a job, and perhaps a pretty good one, as a security person at the local supermarket chain. We witness a really lovely goodbye party for a long-time employee, in which even the "big boss" seems like a relatively good guy.

As Thierry learn the ropes, however, he also learns that downsizing is the order of the day, and part of his job is not simply to catch customers who shoplift but to catch employees who are maybe doing some underhanded stuff, too.  How all this plays out is done in the same low-key/quiet-burn style in which we see and feel what is happening from a number of perspectives: Thierry's, his bosses', the perps/victims. (That's the store manager, played by Saïd Aïssaoui, below, left.)

The constancy of surveillance is front and center, along with what this does to both the surveilled and surveillers. The movie takes its place alongside other fine workplace films -- Mi piace lavorare (Mobbing) and the recent Two Days, One Night -- as examples of the work world and our place in it. The choice Thierry makes is truthful and understandable, though you may also see some alternatives to it. Rocking the boat with political action is one of these, but as we've been shown via an earlier scene, Thierry is more a loner than a joiner.

Brizé does not offer answers, difficult or easy. He simply lays out the puzzle pieces of one man, his family and his employment history, and lets us fill them all in. The result, once complete, is very real not very pretty, but compelling and -- thanks to M. Lindon -- commanding, as well.

The Measure of a Man-- from Kino Lorber and running just 93 minutes, opens this Friday, April 15, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the new Metrograph. The latter venue, in honor of M. Lindon, will screen four of this actors finer roles this week in the days preceding the film's opening. You can see that Metrograph schedule here.

(I do wish the Metrograph had included Chaos, shown at right, on its schedule, a movie in which Lindon excels, and which also gives us Catherine Frot and Rachida Brakni at their best.) In any case, there are another ten cities on the current film's limited release schedule (as of now). Click here then scroll down to see them all. Here in South Florida, The Measure of a Man will play single screenings at the Movies of Delray (April 17), at the Movies of Lake Worth (April 19) and then a week's run starting May 6 at Miami's Tower Theater.  In Los Angeles. look for it at Laemmle's Royal, come May 20.

No comments: