Friday, November 3, 2017

Nicolas Silhol's compelling workplace drama, CORPORATE, gets New York debut at FIAF during Lambert Wilson week

If you have not yet heard of French filmmaker Nicolas Silhol, you surely will -- if, that is, his first full-length movie, CORPORATE, gets any kind of distribution here in America. The film will make its New York City debut this coming Monday, November 6, at FIAF, which leads off a seven-week period dedicated to French icon/actor Lambert Wilson and his idol, the late actor/singer Yves Montand. The following day, Tuesday, November 7, FIAF will host M. Wilson's one-man-show (plus band), Lambert Wilson Sings Yves Montand, followed by the six-week FIAF CinéSalon program Actor's Choice: Lambert Wilson & Yves Montand, during which will screen three of Montand's best films and three of Wilson's many that demonstrate the range and skill of this actor -- who combines talent with matinee-idol looks.

In Corporate, which M. Silhol (shown at right) has directed with a fine eye for behavioral detail, as well as for French corporate infrastructure and its ability to circumvent the law, M. Wilson takes a back seat to the film's two female stars, Céline Sallette and Violaine Fumeau. The former, shown below, plays Corporate's anti-heroine, Emilie, whose journey the film tracks with skill and persistence.

Emilie is the head of Human Resources in a department of a large and powerful corporation. As most of the western world now, I hope, realizes, Human Resources (as we learned nearly 20 years ago via Laurent Cantet's fine movie of the same name) is anything but human, the resources of which are most often used to downsize and otherwise make miserable the lives of those with whom that corporation wishes to dispense.

The filmmaker very smartly allows us to see how Emilie works, even before he lets us view her own family life -- husband, child -- and begin to sympathize with her, if only a bit. Work-wise she is a conniving bitch, a role she feels she must play in order to do the job for which she's been hired by her extremely charming, duplicitous and ultimately vicious boss, played to low-key perfection by M. Wilson, below.

When the death of an underling occurs -- which is thoroughly the result of corporate policy -- and the government begins its standard investigation (via the dogged, demanding woman-in-charge, played very well by Ms Fumeau, below), Emilie's facade and soon her entire work world begins collapsing around her. 

Ms Sallet treads an uneasy line that has us alternately empathizing and criticizing her actions, deservedly so -- which makes her character all too sadly human and fallible. Most of the film's characters are drawn this way, and Silhol is able to make them -- and his movie -- all the more believable because of this.

Normally I would have found the finale of Corporate too easy, obvious, even old-hat. But I must say that Silhol pulls it off with enough panache that I bought it. He also makes it clear that the ending, which indeed is somewhat "happy" could also have pretty dire consequences for Emilie. Do we, after all, reap what we have sown? Or does that only work for the underclass? See Corporate, and feel free to ponder a bit.

The movie will screen only once, this coming Monday, November 6, at 7:30pm at FIAF's Florence Gould Hall and will be introduced by Lambert Wilson in person. Click here for more information and/or tickets. For more info on M. Wilson's musical Montand homage the following evening, click here, and to see the entire schedule of the CinéSalon Lambert Wilson/Yves Montand movies, click here.

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