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With: Jalil Lespert, Jean-Claude Vallod, Chantal Barré, Véronique de Pandelaère, Michel Begnez, Lucien Longueville, Danielle Mélador, Pascal Sémard, Didier Emile-Woldemard, Françoise Boutigny, Félix Cantet, Marie Cantet, Sébastien Tauvel, Jean-François Garcia, Gaëlle Amouret
Written by: Laurent Cantet, Gilles Marchand
Directed by: Laurent Cantet
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 103
Date: 09/22/1999

Human Resources (1999)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dirty Work

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Laurent Cantet's film was released to American theaters in 2000 as part of the late, great Shooting Gallery series, but I didn't see it until Kino's Kimstim wing released it on DVD in 2008. Coincidentally, Cantet's new film Entre les murs won the Palme d'Or right around the same time. Human Resources is an interesting and tough little film. Business student Franck (Jalil Lespert) takes a job in the factory where his father (Jean-Claude Vallod) has been employed for 30 years. His father operates a machine, putting together 700 doohickeys an hour, while Franck works in an office and takes meetings with the boss. When Franck first arrives, he thinks he can have lunch and hang out with his old man, but quickly finds that he's on another team. His job is to help usher in the 35-hour work week, which has the company in a panic; they can't make a profit if they lose those hours of production each week. Franck writes up a questionnaire to get the opinions of the workers, which gets him in trouble with the communist shop steward. He also finds out that his father is going to be fired, and must decide which side he's on. On one level, the film reminded me of something more spectacular and extravagant, like Sydney Pollack's The Firm (1993), where a new employee must uncover corruption in his new job, while risking his own future. And certainly Cantet has his own flourishes, as Franck stands up to his boss, takes secret meetings and participates in dramatic standoffs. Not all of it works; these turning points seem to clash with the day-to-day drama of a boring job as well as the central focus of the father-son relationship. But it's a worthy effort.

DVD Details: The DVD release is pretty bare-bones, and the transfer is very rudimentary. The subtitles are non-removable and you can see the jittering of the film frame during the opening title sequence.

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