MEASURE OF A MAN, THE
Unemployed Thierry (Vincent Lindon) looks for work and finally lands a job in security at a supermarket, where he sees first hand how some people resort to dishonesty - for a variety of reasons.
Review by Louise Keller:
Like Vincent Lindon's store security man Thierry Taugourdeau, who observes every little nuance about the shoppers and their behaviour as they traverse the aisles, we observe him in all the facets of his life. Stphane Briz has a knack of honing into ordinary lives and finding something fascinating about them, and here we are drawn into the life of an ordinary man, who shows himself to be far from ordinary. Like Mademoiselle Chambon (2009), in which not much happens on the surface, The Measure of a Man invites us to observe its protagonist as he sets about in his daily life, and to draw our own conclusions. Subtle, voyeuristic and engrossing, with a stellar naturalistic performance by Lindon, this is a film for the discerning cinema lover and one willing to work for the rewards on offer.
It takes a little time to become accustomed to the rhythm that Brize establishes, with long often awkward scenes of dialogue that feel improvised. When the film begins, Lindon's Thierry is expressing his frustration to an employment agency, after months of futile training resulting in no employment. He suffers indignities in a Skype job interview and listens to criticism about his presentation by other employment hopefuls. We watch him at home with his wife and disabled son: patient, caring, calm. The scene at the dance class may portray a different side, but his polite, respectful attitude is consistent. We understand his financial pressures as well as his business principles when trying to sell his mobile home to an inflexible potential purchaser. We begin to get clear picture of the man and what makes him tick.
There is a gentleness about this everyman as he goes about his daily life, managing the big and small issues, never afraid to make his feelings known. He is willing to compromise but not about everything. The circumstances in which Thierry is offered a job as store security man is curiously omitted - to the film's detriment. However, the scenes when he begins work are fascinating: we watch with him, canvassing the shoppers' and cashiers' every move, in case they are about to succumb to temptation. We observe the consequences and the lack of flexibility. He is expressionless in the interview room, when shoplifters are apprehended... until....
In addition to its raw filmic style, the ending may frustrate some, but in the final analysis, it works perfectly, as we assess the measure of a man, the sum of whose parts is greater than any individual part, but one in which compassion is critical.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins abruptly. Thierry (Vincent Lindon) is complaining to some employment officer that the five month course he just completed as a crane driver resulted in not a single job offer. Nobody wants to hire a crane driver with no practical experience. He should have been told that at the start, he keeps saying. He should have expected that. Frankly, my sympathies went out the window right there, even though I'm an ardent fan of Vincent Lindon. So I stuck with him, anyway. Followed him through a sequence of meaningless scenes that led nowhere, as if the filmmakers were demonstrating the meaning of non sequitur - scenes that lead nowhere.
Scenes are cut before any resolution of the action. Editing is reduced to making a montage. The compilation shows Thierry as a taciturn chap, hapless even, thrown out of work and unable to get another job. His son is disabled. His wife doesn't work. They have to sell their caravan but the potential buyer quibbles about the price. We don't think the sale goes ahead, but we are not shown.
The suggestive power of cinema are enormously powerful, but the filmmakers have to do better than place a series of scenes in a row. The focus is on Thierry, of course, obsessively so, often excluding from shot other participants in the scene. (A bit like Son of Saul in that respect.)
Lindon draws us in beautifully to his character, even though there isn't much to explore. It all relies on the final scene, a weak payoff to justify the title.
There will be - and already are - many who praise the film as a humanist essay, heaping awards and accolades on it. It was even in Competition at Cannes. Perhaps I just don't get it. Perhaps it's not enough for me that we feel empathy for his empathy with shoplifters and the like. Perhaps he's a saint. Perhaps too much so.
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MEASURE OF A MAN, THE (PG)
Le loi du marche
CAST: Vincent Lindon, Karine de Mirbeck, Matthieu Schaller
PRODUCER: Philip Boeffard, Christophe Rossington
DIRECTOR: Stephane Brize
SCRIPT: Stephane Brize, Olicier Gorce
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eric Dumont
EDITOR: Anne Klotz
MUSIC: Not credited
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Valerie Saradjian
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 30, 2016