The Measure Of A Man (La Loi Du Marché) has been generating best actor buzz at the Cannes Film Festival for its lead. Here’s Jamie Graham’s reaction…
French filmmaker Stéphane Brizé reteams with favourite leading man Vincent Lindon for an intimate social drama that occupies similar terrain to the Dardennes’ 2014 competition entry, Two Days, One Night.
Unemployed and increasingly disillusioned, fiftysomething Thierry Taugourdeau (Lindon) suffers one humiliation after the next at his local job centre. First sent on a training course that failed to procure work, he is now accosted with more empty advice and must undergo a filmed mock interview so that his ‘technique’ might be politely but firmly belittled.
With family savings fast running out and benefits set to drop to a measly 500 euros a month, Thierry faces losing the house that he and his wife (Karine de Mirbeck) have spent their life paying for, while also confronted with not being able to finance his son’s (Matthieu Schaller) tuition at a special-needs college.
Then he secures a job as a security guard at a large store, charged with monitoring the closed-circuit footage to detect shoplifters or rogue staff members. A series of sad encounters play out in which Thierry must side with the bosses against those whose actions are often triggered by desperation. An unexpected, carefully negotiated sidestep, it allows The Measure Of A Man to add a morality-play dimension to its social realism.
Mining rich humanism and gentle humour from scenarios of hardship, Brizé’s sixth feature is comprised of close-ups and medium shots in shallow focus, cleaving tight to Lindon’s pouched face and slouched body as he clings to the last of his dignity. It’s an unostentatious, deeply affecting performance – a contender for the Best Actor prize in a competition that has so far served more memorable female turns than male – and it is propped robustly by a supporting cast of non-professionals, their every posture and gesture communicating truth.
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