Store Policy


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

international Audience Award winner Store Policy
"Simplicity gives it stark strength."

Store Policy is the English title, this is also L'Effort Commercial. The tone is somewhere between, this is a film about the intersection of the personal, deeply so, and the simultaneously towering and petty powers of corporate rules.

The store, Store+, has no customers, no products, no shelves, no walls. There are the tills, two self-service, and a locker room. Later there will be a loading dock, a boundary between the white expanse of the trackless market, a toilet too. The industrial and the organic have between them the commercial. Its efforts are not trivial.

This is disturbing viewing, the content warning on its programme notes at 2021's Glasgow Short Film Festival also constitutes a spoiler, but that makes the revelation no less distressing. 'Harrowing' is perhaps the word most easily found, and that is perhaps because the turning over and raking through of agriculture is impersonal, mechanical.

As are the exhortations to let the customers help themselves. To always ask for the loyalty card. To ask people to use another queue, to call a cleaner, and then, then an ambulance. To measure breaks in minutes per hour and even then only just earn the plural. To rank by measures staff have little control over, to create conditions of competition that are merely excuses to create excuses. To impose by clipboard and whiteboard, authority that is as small as it is cruel.

Here Pascal Tagnati is Eric, less manager than overseer, answering to higher-ups in a model as much colonial as corporate. The women, all women, that he enforces upon are name-tagged, ear-ringed, constrained by tabard and procedure and choreography into shapes unsustainable. Empty hands pass invisible goods to serve unseeable systems. Everything is nonconfrontational pastel, Pantone greens, blues and, inevitably, red.

Around Eric the women - Lea (Candice Paulihac) the new girl, Nour (Anissa Kaki) asking to change the routine. Clara (Chabilier) and Virginie (Lavalou) join, a piece that is choreographed, literally so. This is a gendered workplace, one where individuality is constrained to nametags and ear-rings. A glimpse in the credits behind the scenes reminds us that this is something constructed, but that is in contrast to the studied artificiality of the film itself. That there elisions does not make it less true. Abstraction removes distraction. The lines at the till are metaphorical, but the warning lights still flash.

Co-written by Arnold with Sebastian Bailly and Aline Cretinoir, there is at the root of this a true and tragic story. Details have been changed. In Q&A at 2021's Glasgow Short Film Festival she talked about the 'theatre film' aspect of it, referencing Dogville, but also the need to escape the business of actual supermarkets. Replacing spaces described as "very ugly", "a lot of noise" with close-ups, "face becomes a landscape." Removing the customers and all but the very motions of commerce "accentuates the personal and the reduction of the impersonal."

Simplicity gives it stark strength. Jan Vysocky's score lends some scenes the air of Fordist operas, the tempo of the time and motion man made music. Pascale Marin manages the colours well, not just of communications corporate but complexions. As with Glasgow Short Film Festival's other 2021 Audience Award winner, Expensive Shit, there's an intersectionality to proceedings that adds depth with every angle. Sarah Arnold and her cast and crew have created something that leverages minimalism for maximum impact.

Reviewed on: 30 Mar 2021
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Store Policy packshot
Lea begins a summer job as a cashier in a large supermarket chain.

Director: Sarah Arnold

Writer: Sarah Arnold

Year: 2020

Runtime: 17 minutes

Country: France


GSFF 2021

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