Human Resources (Ressources Humaines)

on September 15, 2000 by Chris Wiegand
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   "Human Resources" is the dramatic story of how a new governmental scheme affects the lives of a family in France. Laurent Cantet's film recalls the socially and politically aware cinema of Jean-Luc Godard, and was a talking point at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival.

   Franck (Jalil Lespert), a 22-year-old graduate from business school in Paris, returns to his provincial hometown to take a job as a management trainee at the factory where his father and sister work. Whilst at first admired by his family for his academic success, Franck soon experiences hostility from his old school friends, many of whom are now laborers at the factory. Working for the Human Resources department, Frank is placed in charge of assessing the implementation of the new 35-hour week. His investigations into the workers' views on the matter soon raise suspicion from the union as well as Franck's father. Caught in a conflict between a double-dealing management and the suspicious laborers, Franck's unfortunate predicament is fully realized by Cantet, especially when he learns that his father is to be dismissed five years before retirement (after 30 years with the factory) to make way for automated welding.

   Shot in a documentary style, "Human Resources" is a painfully astute tale, intelligently directed and co-scripted by Cantet, who has clearly researched his subject material in great detail. Cantet chose to cast a number of unemployed factory workers in the film, talking at length with them before creating their roles. He draws impressive performances from these first-time actors, in particular Jean-Claude Vallod as the father who just wants to work out his final years in peace. Jalil Lespert, the only professional actor in the film, is outstanding as the compromised and increasingly disillusioned Franck. There are some powerful moments, including the scene where Franck's father proudly shows his son the mind-numbing work he performs at his machine, and when Franck clashes with his heartless boss (Lucien Longueville), who views the workers in his factory as simply 'human resources.' This is the most socially relevant film to come out of France since Matthieu Kassovitz's "La Haine."    Starring Jalil Lespert, Jean-Claude Vallod, Chantal Barré and Véronique de Pandelaère. Directed by Laurent Cantet. Written by Laurent Cantet and Gilles Marchand. Produced by Caroline Benjo and Carole Scotta. A Shooting Gallery release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 100 min.

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