Joy Of Man's Desiring


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Côté deliberately refuses to manufacture a conclusion, leaving it to us to make of it what we will."

Despite being billed as a documentary, Denis Côté's latest film is anything but straight forward. A filmmaker who frequently wrong-foots his audience - most recently with the genre-defying Vic + Flo Saw A Bear - there are signs from the outset, that it is not just items that are being manufactured on screen but that the documentary itself is a piece of exotic artifice, straying from the physical world into the exisistential.

We are invited into the workplace by a woman, her eyes averted from the camera, almost seductively suggesting "I'm here for you" and at pains to emphasise "I am not a machine", "I don't have an on/off switch".

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Côté's previous documentary, Bestiaire, considered ideas of captivity and man's relation to animals and here it is humans' relationship with machines that falls under his lens - although the signs of entrapment, an almost ever-present in his work, are also visible.

His camera travels first through a factory where metal workers move with the rhythm of their machines, an integral part of the operation, reduced to little more than an intricate working part themselves. Later, we see similar repetitions in a clothes factory, while in a workshop, one man plies his trade. Côté's trademark locked-off shots are in evidence but there is more urgency here, the cuts much quicker than in Bestiaire. Machines may have on/off switches but they wait for no man, he suggests, although one of the workers is proud to boast about how he managed to outstrip the expected turnover.

Accompanying the work, is the almost otherworldly noise of the machines, a din of slams and squeaks that in the sound design hands of Frédéric Cloutier and Clovis Gouaillier resolves into a soundscape as complex as anything the men and women are manufacturing. There is an air of melancholy from some of the workers, as they sit silently eating their lunch, as mechanically as the machines they have just let fall silent, or in their talk of the grind. But Côté also finds absurdist humour in water cooler banter and workplace signs, offering bons mots, such as, "If you're good we'll give you the work. If you're very good, you'll get someone else to do it for you".

Work here is paradoxical. Offering cohesion and enslavement, and Côté deliberately refuses to manufacture a conclusion, leaving it to us to make of it what we will. Like the best of his previous films, what each viewer brings with them into the cinema will affect what they take away. After all "working never killed anybody... but why take the risk?".

Reviewed on: 25 Jul 2014
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Humans' relationship with machinery.

Director: Denis Côté

Starring: Guillaume Tremblay, Emilie Sigouin, Hamidou Savadogo, Ted Pluviose, Cassandre Emmanuel

Year: 2014

Runtime: 70 minutes


BIFF 2014
EIFF 2014

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