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2016年12月9日 星期五

Vendeur (Who's Your Daddy?) (我阿爸是誰?)




The life of a top notch salesman is full of self-confidence, a giant size ego, money, constant pressure to clinch the deal, the kind of conspicuous glamor and other things that money can buy like well tailored suit, powerful and well-built BMW But it can also be a life of loneliness which can only be drowned by one glass after another of alcohol, one prostitute after another in hotel rooms, "professional" pep talk sessions utilizing the results of social psychology in the form of the so-called "positive psychology" , organized by the boss of the relevant business organization and even hard drugs. The aim of all salesmanship is to conclude a deal with maximum profit whatever it is that one is selling. The salesman must make use of all his personal charm, his gift of the gab, his insight into the human weakness of greed, of their fear of losing out on something too good to be true, of the inclination of ordinary mortals to dream moments of glory otherwise missing in their lives(more realistically, of vainglory), to be the focus of envy amongst their peersand their reckless, their unwillingness to do the needed hard work of weighing carefully the long and short term benefits against the relevant downside factors, to squeeze the last dollar from his customers, for which he may be offered loans at "fantastically" easy to accept initial terms, offers that can't possibly be refused. The trick is first to create the desire in the customer by emphasizing the beauty, the utility, the ease of the product, to elicit the customer's imagination of an ideal future state, then create what "appears" a difficulty, eg. by listing a much higher price than the what the seller is ultimately prepared to accept, then give the customer the illusion that he is being "clever" or "smart" or "skilful" in negotiating down the price by a very "substantial" amount by offering first a little concession, then a little bit more until the parties are very close to a deal and when there are signs that the customer may be showing firm signs of walking away, then make a final "once only" or :"once in a lifetime" "final" concession saying that that  incredible offer may be withdrawn if the customers doesn't accept within an extremely brief period, that the "ultimate best offer' will be withdrawn. The trick is to force the customer into making a quick "on the spot" decision without being given the opportunity of thinking things through. When all the tricks of the trade are used in a timely fashion, a deal may result.  Here the born salesman will have a knack of when to do what and his sense of timing must be perfect, something which cannot be learned if one doesn't really have a gift for that kind of instantaneous insight.

This appears to be what first-timer director-co-screenwriter (with Olivier Lorelle for the adaption) Sylvain Desclous wanted to show in his debut film Vendeur (Who's Your Daddy?) (我阿巴是誰?), starring  Gilbert Melki as Serge Ponsini top salesman in a luxury kitchen euipment company, Pio Marmaï as his chef turned salesman son Gérald Ponsini, Clémentine Poidatz as Gerald's devoted cohabitee ,Karole, Sara Giraudeau as Serge's regular call girl who is doing a master in marketing degree. But this is not all, the debutant director appears also to want to show that ultimately, whether one wants to remain a salesman all his life and have that kind of lifelstyle is ultimately also an existential question of what kind of person one really wants to "be" and of what one considers will give real meaning to one's life.

The film starts with a team of salesman in action. Every morning, they would gather together in a room, with a pep talk expert, who would motivate them to fulfil their daily sale quotas by collectively shouting some notionally meaningless sound the sole meaning of which is to show their common solarity and determination to start off the day by doing their utmost to push sales. Then we see Gérald meeting Serge for a breakfast in which the son tells his father that he needs a job to help him get money so that he can renovate his small restaurant and that he wanted to become a "salesman", like his dad. Serge was initially reluctant but later relented and introduced him to join his compnay. Initially, he did poorly but at key moments, Serge telephoned him through their mobiles to give him tips on what to do and in a very short time, he showed that he could do as well as his father but at a quarter of his father's regular pay, ex commission.

When the film ends, we see Serge being laid off but found another job where he could use his salesmanship skill and Gérald's girl friend dumping him when she discovered him flirting with one of his lady customers. When the film ends, we see Serge reading with obvious satisfaction a newspaper article about his son resuming his restaurant business in a big way. His son had apparently learned a lesson.

It's a simple story but Desclous Sylvain did not develop Serge's relation with Chloé when their relationship is portrayed as something more than the usual customer-prostitute relation. Perhaps merely wishes to her to say something he wanted to day, viz. that the life of a salesman is not that much different from that of a prostitute:no permanent attachment, where the highest aim of life is to satisfy the fantasy of one's customer/client, drifting from one relationship to another?  It's a good effort, but not yet a great one, saved only by the excellent acting of the father and son pair.