With only two feature films to his credit, writer-director Laurent Cantet has established himself as a great cinematic dramatist of the workplace. His superb debut, HUMAN RESOURCES, explored class conflict and intergenerational strife on the floor of an embattled French factory. Here, Cantet explores the way in which personal identity is defined by what we do, and the result is something of a thriller. To all appearances, Vincent (Aurelien Recoing) is a highly motivated financial consultant: He leaves his house early, works late and often spends days at a time away from his family on business trips. And although he's dropped a few hints to his wife, Muriel (Karin Viard), he's being very tight-lipped about the possibility of a prestigious new job in Geneva as a UN representative, something to do with economic development in Africa through business investments. It's all very impressive-sounding, but the truth of the matter is that Vincent was fired from his job three months ago and hasn't worked since. The whole time Muriel thinks he's busy at the office working on some restructuring plan or other, Vincent is actually roaming the highways, hanging out at rest stops and sleeping in his car. In order to support his family while maintaining the deception, Vincent concocts a cruel and misguided plan to defraud some old friends out of their savings by letting them in on the ground floor of what turns out to be a phony foreign investment scheme. Vincent conducts his "business" out of a hotel lounge where he happens to catch the eye of Jean-Michel (Serge Livrozet), a real operator who knows a con when he sees one. Jean-Michel "imports" everything from luxury watches to scarves and sunglasses all of it cheap, none of it real and offers Vincent a job in his "organization" and, ironically, a chance at redemption. Beautifully shot against the frozen winter landscapes of Grenoble and Geneva, the film unfolds with all the mounting tension of an expert thriller, until the tragedy beneath it all gradually reveals itself. Thanks to a perfectly modulated performance by Recoing, Vincent is shown to be an idealist who simply wants the power to redefine himself as a better person, regardless of what he does or doesn't do for a living. And look carefully at that final scene; few happy endings have ever felt so downbeat.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: With only two feature films to his credit, writer-director Laurent Cantet has established himself as a great cinematic dramatist of the workplace. His superb debut, HUMAN RESOURCES, explored class conflict and intergenerational strife on the floor of an em… (more)