Thursday, July 13, 2017

FOOTNOTES: Paul Calori and Kostia Testut's musical rom-com about employment opens

If you're going to view a modern musical rom-com, and you found La La Land a little too full of narcissists hoping to make their mark on tinsel town, you might want to consider a French version in which the leading characters just want to either find a decent job or hang on to the very precarious one they've already got.

Such a movie hits one theater in New York City tomorrow and will open in a few more venues in the weeks to come. It's called FOOTNOTES (Sur quel pied danser is the French title), and if its so-so melodies will not set the world on fire, it is at least peopled with performers who can sing, dance and act reasonably well. Plus, it's got a social conscience -- and then some.

Filmmakers Paul Calori (shown at right) and Kostia Testut (below), who both wrote and directed this little trifle-with-a-mind-and-heart, have imbued their movie with a kind of careless, free-form, improvisational feel that can be quite charming from time to time. Their movie is feminist, anti-corporate, and a shoe-in for folk who love footwear.

And while the personal may indeed be political
(or is it vice-versa?), in this film the personal finally bests both the social and political. In La La Land, there's little but personal ambition and obeisance to moviedom driving the protagonists onward. Here, there is some social conscience, a bit of solidarity, feminism and anti-corporate stance, but -- perhaps to the filmmakers' credit -- individual character trumps political theory. Good theoretical Communists these two fellows would not, I think, make.

In the leading role is an actress, Pauline Etienne (above, from Eden and 2 Autumns, 3 Winters) who proves adept at everything the filmmakers demand of her (singing, acting, dancing, the works), and her co-star is an attractive, believable fellow named Samy (played by Olivier Chantreau, below, right, and most recently seen in Moka). Interestingly enough, these two, although they are the film's would-be stars and despite their attractiveness and charm, do not command the movie.

Instead it is the ensemble, the workers at the footwear factory -- as well as the villain of the piece, the corporate boss -- who are the most fun and interesting to view. In that villain role is is an actor -- Loïc Corbery (below) --  whom, I am guessing, has had some dance background, for he moves with finesse and dances with such aplomb that he pretty much dusts the floor with the rest of the ensemble.

The movie makes clear from the outset that its leading character, Julie, simply wants a job that will earn her a living wage and be "secure." Samy, has this already, and wants to hold on to it and so will do whatever that requires.  These two may not be all that admirable, but they are indeed human. So are the many workers we meet and watch agitate (as they both demonstrate and dance).

The song lyrics are pointed and (at least in the translation we get) serviceable, but the music they are set to is so similar from song to song that you may think you've regressed to Michel Legrand territory (a la The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but without even something as nice as that film's popular and pretty love song). La La Land also had not much particularly winning music, but Footnotes' songs seem even more ordinary.

Yet, given its subject matter, along with the charm of some of the nicely choreographed numbers, the film may win you over. Not only is it worthwhile to see a modern musical that's about something more than love and personal ambition (pussyfooting around instead as "dreams"), it's very good to see one that tackles subjects so important to the well-being of today's citizens. Even if, in the end, rom-com-amour triumphs over all else.

From Monument Releasing and running just 85 minutes, Footnotes, opens tomorrow, Friday, July 14, in New York City at the Village East Cinema and then at a few more theaters and cities. (Here in South Florida, the film will open on August 18 at Miami's Tower Theater.) Click here and scroll down to see currently scheduled playdates.

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