2015年11月21日 星期六

La Loi du Marché (The Measure of a Man) (市場機制)

It's not often that you get a film about working class people without some bit of implicit moralizing or spirit boosting on how the lowly hero struggling against impossible odds finally pulled through to reach a very much needed and longed for happy ending. But rare though it is, Stéphane Brizé managed to do so in  La Loi du Maché (literally, the law of the market) ("The Measure of A Man") (2015) which he co-scripted with Olivier Gorce.

It would be an understatement to say that it's a razor-sharp look at the life of a 51-year-old crane operator more than a year after he was laid off by a 700 worker factory. When the film begins, we see Thierry Taugourdeau (Vincent Lindon), a married working class man on $500 Euro a month unemployment benefits arguing with some of his ex-colleagues about the point of suing for redundancy payment against those in control of his bankrupt company, discussing with the a job counselor (Yves Ory ) at the local government department of employment about the point of a further re-training course when the first one seemed to get him no where, talking about the possibility of selling his home nearly paid off except for another 5 years with a bank credit officer (Catherine Saint-Bonnet), undergoing a job  interview on video camera by Skype in front of a desk top computer  for a position as a Version 8 crane operator when he was only familiar with version 7, taking time off to learn rock 'n roll with his wife (Karine de Mirbeck) at the neighborhood community centre, washing his engineering college ready polio-stricken teenage son (Matthieu Schaller) in the bathroom, haggling over an unacceptable  reduction of selling price of his mobile home from $7,000 Euros which the prospective purchaser (Roland Thomin) had previously agreed on the phone to $6,000 Euros on the pretext that his home did not have a view on the sea when none of the mobile homes there had any and on a minor damaged electrical appliance, how he was mercilessly criticized about his body posture, his tone of voice, his way of presenting his bios on a video'd record of his mock job interview by a group of fellow students, Dahmane Belghoul, Florence Herry-Leham, Agnès Millord,  Irene Raccah, Christian Ranvier, Cyril J. Rolland, Sandrine Vang according to the principles they learned from the employment interview technique instructor (Tevi Lawson ). We see how he struggled to take the humiliating battery of criticisms, valid or justified or not with calm, with repressed pain, with dignity.

Then in the second half of the film, we see what he saw and how he dealt with different customers and colleagues who committed minor thefts/ dishonest conduct: a black teenager who stole a mobile phone, an old man who stole a packet of fresh meat costing $15 Euro because he had no more money with him on his person, at home and had no friend or relative he could call to pay for him so that he could avoid having to call the police, a cashier who had been working for the store for 20 years and who just had a store party for her for her loyalty collecting discount coupons discarded by customers instead of throwing them into the rubbish bin according to the regulations got fired and then committed suicide. When another cashier was discovered scanning her own “loyalty card” to accrue points from other customers’ purchases who did not wish to take advantage of the "benefit" and was trying to argue that the store would lose nothing with the store manager but met with a "strictly business" bureaucratic response, he felt he has had enough and  headed for the car in the open air car park outside the store.  The film ends.

Stéphane Brizé blends skilfully a variety shooting style: medium shots, close ups, static shots, subjective shots etc but when at end of the film, we see the protagonist walking towards the car park, it seems as if the camera could contain its "emotions" no longer: it was swaying from side to side. We feel that the hitherto calm and indifferent almost documentary style cameraman too wanted to resonate with the way the hero looks at his world: a world which one just can't look any more at with the kind of resolute stoicism which he had displayed from the moment he was laid off, through all his trials and tribulations. It was a silent indictment of the "impersonal laws of the market". Vincent Lindon was excellent as Thierry: his coarse-grained masculinity, his stoic attitude, his suppressed dissatisfaction and even disgust and at the same time, the very visceral sense of powerlessness at having to spy on the antics of the customers and even at those of his colleagues as he looked at one after another of the low-resolution and snow-flaked images on the CCTV monitor in his control room in which he was forced by the mechanistic logic of the capitalist system which imposed upon him the "duty" to look at every one as a potential thief.. There are many things Thierry could take but there's a limit too to what he considers non-negotiable: honesty, his love for his family, his home, his conviction that sometimes, we could relax a little the principles of business in the direction of compassion and show a little tolerance for the very human weakness of trying to take advantage of one's situation in life for certain minor "dishonesty" which will not do serious harm to society. I am not surprised Vincent Lindon won the best actor award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and Stéphane Brizé won the audience award the Brussels Film Festival earlier this year.