(Laurent Cantet) 2002
Out, the fascinating new film from French director Laurent Cantet plays out
like one long, slowly dawning realization of the truth. The movie opens with a
shot that has thematic resonance that is applicable throughout the film. From
the interior of a car, the condensation on the windshield gradually fades away,
revealing a better picture of the landscape outside. Itís a competent visual
metaphor for the psyche of Vincent (Aurelien Recoing), the out-of-work family
man at the filmís center, and Cantet repeats it several times before the
picture ends. Early on, the filmís structure leaves the audience unsure
whether the editing is simply elliptical or if the protagonist is out of work.
We never see Vincent working, but he talks ceaselessly about his business
meetings to his friends and family. Before long, however, his unemployment
becomes apparent, though not until Cantetís approach allows us to understand
how people can and want to believe the appearance of productivity Vincent
Because Cantet tells the film so determinedly from
Vincentís point of view, his gradual remove from society becomes alienating as
the film wears on. There is certainly a degree of sadness in his regression, but
the decisions that he makes leaves the audience uncomfortable with his behavior.
We canít deny him his desire to be freed from the daily grind, but at the same
time, itís hard to endorse his scheming and overspending. There seem to be
those that arenít really cut out for the demands of the 9 to 5 workday, and
Vincentís one of those people, to be sure, but one must question if that alone
justifies him bilking his father and friends out of money. His deep-rooted shame
about his unemployment shows that he realizes how little room our society has
for those who donít want to contribute in an orthodox way (though this shame
doesnít stop him from haughtily bristling when offered an illegal position).
Itís particularly interesting that the money making scheme Vincent concocts
relies on others sharing his desire to be freed from working. Vincent seems to
be an intruder in the working world, subverting it from within. He still dresses
as a businessman and when he stows away for elevator rides, listening to small
talk, it seems heís a spy, infiltrating a foreign land and stealing secrets.
The gray landscapes that dominate Time Out reflect Vincentís melancholy outlook. Even his brief
bursts of freedom from his obligations seem tinged by the looming skyís
reminder of them. Occupational and fiscal realities seem almost as much a
cinematic taboo as anything of a sexual or violent nature, and Cantetís
willingness to face them head-on here is nothing less than admirable. Most
people define themselves, to a great extent, by the work they do, yet so many
films treat their protagonistsí occupations as trivial bits of their
background or plot devices. By looking unsentimentally at Vincentís situation,
Time Out becomes a character study
that manages to touch the sensitive nerve of some larger social issues.
Recoingís fantastic performance doesnít exactly reveal what makes Vincent
tick, but perhaps because of our vastly different perceptions of the working
world, any definitive explanation for it would have felt like a cheat.
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