Time Out (2001): Cantet’s Dark Portrait of Man Living Double Life

French (L’Emplois Du Temps) 

This dark, demanding, elegantly shot portrait of a man who lives a double life is director Laurent Cantet’s second feature.  It’s a follow-up to the impressive debut, “Human Resources,” which also played the global film festival circuit, including Sundance. Reflecting real socio-economic problems, this poignant drama centers on the traumatic effects and stigma of unemployment among the middle class.  

When the film begins, Vincent (Aurelien Recoing), an ordinary middle manager in an ordinary French consulting firm, has been fired. As in the tabloid story on which the screenplay is based, he conceals the truth from his family. Weekdays, he says he’s “on business,” but actually lives in his car. Always available on his cell phone, he continues to recount cheerily to his wife the tough business negotiations and “big” deals he is making. He talks of quitting his nonexistent job for a far better nonexistent post with the U.N. in Switzerland. Soon, he begins to relate his exploits in fostering third world projects. But the money isn’t coming in, the game is almost up, and the truth threatens to be disclosed. Vincent turns first to selling bogus Russian securities to his college classmates, then to smuggling watches from Switzerland. 

In subtle brushes, we get the portrait of a desperate man, who always sought but never achieved his father’s admiration, who tries to buy his eldest son’s affection, and who seeks his wife’s love and respect with tales of professional success. For a brief time out, he escapes the constraints of a reality for which he is not fit, deluding himself that he’s master of his fate, capable of daring feats. 

 “Time Out” was the winner of the Golden Lion for Cinema of the Present at the 2001 Venice Film Fest (I was on the jury that year), and a selection of the 2001 Toronto, New York, and San Sebastian Film Festivals. It’s the second feature of Laurent Cantet, whose debut was the successful 1999 film “Human Resources” (released by Shooting Gallery), which received the Cesar (French Academy Award) for Best First Film, Best Promising Actor for Jalil Lespert, and the Fassbinder/ Discovery Prize at the European Film Awards. “Human Resources” was selected for the Sundance Film Festival and New Directors/New Films.

Vincent is Aurelien Recoing’s first lead role in a feature film. His recent supporting roles include Laurent Tuel’s “Jeu d’enfants” (2001) Andrzej Zulawski’s “La Fidelite” (2000) and Laurence Ferreira Barbosa’s “La vie moderne” (2000). Awarded the prestigious Gerard Philippe Prize in 1989, Recoing has been an accomplished theater actor since the 1970s. In addition to acting in plays of Chekhov, Shakespeare and Moliere, Recoing has also directed several theater productions, most recently “TDM3” by Didier-Georges Gabily.