Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
"This is my machine," the father tells his son. He explains its workings. It rotates like this, he says, and then he adds a part, he pushes a lever, and the machine performs a function. "I can do 700 an hour," he says with quiet satisfaction. He has been doing it for 30 years. His body is permanently stooped as if bowing to the machine, he seems hypnotized by continuity: As long as he stays here, doing this, he is alive and serves a function.
His son has broken out of the family's class. He has gone to college, and now has returned to their French town as a trainee in the personnel division. The night before his first job interview, his father fearfully briefs him on how to respect his boss and to play down his own opinion. The father's spirit has long since been broken down into timid subservience.
"Human Resources," written and directed by Laurent Cantet, follows the son during his first weeks on the job, gradually revealing itself as an angry and unforgiving look at the way factories can treat employees as machines, and sometimes scrap them. More class conscious than an American film would be, it shows the son torn between tempting management opportunities and his sense of fairness. He begins to realize that "human resources" is not a benevolent term, but belongs on the same list with "raw materials resources." Humans are simply an element in a production flow chart.
Management is thinking of scaling back. Frank (Jalil Lespert), the son, is involved in the discussions and suggests a questionnaire that might help employees feel they have input. Mrs. Arnoux (Danielle Melador), the communist shop steward, is having none of it. She chairs an angry meeting, but her very anger discredits her. Then Frank, poking around on his boss' computer, discovers his questionnaire has been used as a rationale for layoffs, and his dad will be one of those to be fired.