French Film and Work: The Work Done by Work-Centered Films

By O'Shaughnessy, Martin | Framework, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

French Film and Work: The Work Done by Work-Centered Films


O'Shaughnessy, Martin, Framework


This article is driven by my initial perception that, when dealing with workrelated fi lms, it may be more interesting to ask what they do (how they seek to change the way we look upon the world) than what they show.1 Limiting my scope to Franco- Belgian fi lms, I concentrate on two fi ctions and two documentaries that focus on the workplace. The fi ctions are Laurent Cantet's Ressources humaines/Human Resources (FR, 2000) and Jean- Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's Rosetta (FR/BE, 1999), and the documentaries are Marc- Antoine Roudil and Sophie Bruneau's Ils ne mouraient pas tous mais tous étaient frappes/They Did Not All Die But Were Stricken (FR/BE, 2006) and Sabrina Malek and Arnaud Soulier's Un Monde moderne/A Modern World (FR, 2005). The number of work- related fi lms in France has been considerable in recent years, especially in the area of documentary, but with fi ction fi lm playing its part.2 I make no pretense that my chosen fi lms can somehow typify this wider corpus. What they clearly share with many other fi lms, nonetheless, is a desire both to engage with profound changes in the nature of work and to use the workplace to force hidden oppressions into visibility. In my analysis of the fi lms, I draw heavily on the work of two theoreticians, veteran fi lmmaker Jean- Louis Comolli and po liti cal phi los o pher Jacques Rancière, the former because he has written more interestingly on fi lmic repre sen tation of work than anyone else I am aware of, the latter because he has provided such important insights into the complex interface of the po liti cal and the aesthetic.

Some of Comolli's most important thoughts can be found in two articles published in the journal Images Documentaires and in his contribution to a group discussion or ga nized by Patrick Leboutte for the Séminaire des Images.3 In the latter, Comolli suggests that, throughout its history, fi lm has tended to neglect work. Ever since the Lumière brothers famously fi lmed their workers exiting rather than entering the factory, cinema has associated itself more with leisure, with the escape from toil, than with what happens in the factory, the offi ce, or other place of labor. Of course, there have been exceptions, like Chaplin's classic Modern Times, but generally, when cinema has shown work, it has been reduced to what Comolli calls les confettis du travail, brief snatches of productive labor.4 In any case, as Comolli notes, work is a power relationship (the power of one over another, the submission of bodies to a discipline) that resists mise- en- scène. When it shows work, cinema is drawn to its spectacular dimension, the dance of body and machine that obscures salaried labor's oppressive nature. This is the typical fodder of the kind of fi lms that companies make about themselves, which concentrate on work's choreographed gestures to the exclusion of its duration, its harshness, its wear and tear of the worker, and its fatigue. Because of this, a cinema that really wishes to engage with work must, as Comolli says, "fi lm against cinema," or, in other words, fi nd ways of fi lming that refuse to be drawn to the spectacular surface.5 Picking up on André Bazin's celebrated suggestion that the cinema frame should be seen more as a cache, something that hides what surrounds it, than as a (pictorial) frame or a window (on the world), Comolli suggests that work- related fi lms should concentrate on what is offscreen. It is the ability to activate the offscreen that can bring the invisible into visibility, and the primary resource available to the fi lmmaker to do this is the spoken word.6 As Comolli puts it, "what you can't see directly can be recounted. Somebody comes and tells what happens at the time and in the space to which we do not have access. This is why recourse to the spoken word in times of oppression is important. When the production line is functioning, workers do not speak."7 If work is associated with silence and submission, the taking of voice tends to occur when work stops, typically because of workplace confl ict. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

French Film and Work: The Work Done by Work-Centered Films
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.