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Two Days, One Night – 2014 Dardenne
- The perfect marriage of this era’s greatest cinematic realists (The Dardenne brothers) and perhaps this generation’s most gifted actress (Marion Cotillard). This is their first time working with a “star”. I thought of Ingrid Bergman’s work with Rossellini and like Sophia Loren working with De Sica in 1960’s Two Women.
- Like all of the work from the Dardenne brothers it has a social conscious, a systemic critique, about the working class, universal
- Shot in long takes (most of Cotillard’s encounters with coworkers are in a single shot), handheld camera at medium close-up—real location shooting, she’s wearing the same tank top and jeans for most of it
- At 10 minutes the set-up premise mechanism is clear and simple: Cotillard’s character must ask her coworkers (16 total) to vote for her to stay vs. getting their bonus of 1000 euros. If she can’t convince them she’s fired and her family goes back into public housing. There are realism and neorealism films where “nothing” happens (think Boyhood) and people just exist and that’s the realism—and there are others about ordinary people extraordinary circumstances (this is closer to the early Italians with Rome, Open City and The Bicycle Thieves) and that’s what we have here.
- The Dardenne’s don’t doddle—this is 95 minutes and Cotillard has a lot of coworkers to talk to. Painful conversations, a tough watch in many ways and the realism of the world created by (or captured by) the Dardennes is incalculable to the final product
- Their point is the circumstance and the situation more than the social experiment (one cries, another gets violent, etc) of people helping others or helping themselves and empathy in general
- Cotillard is brilliant and she’s in every frame. She can (and has) been so strong in big films like Nolan’s blockbusters, she can disappear and play known figures like Édith Piaf of course (her Oscar Win) but here she’s an everywoman, she’s so authentic. This isn’t Julia Roberts going door to door with grit and sass in Erin Brockovich (Roberts is good at that, I’m just describing this here, not criticizing her)—this is a natural performance and Cotillard’s character here is not an extrovert.
- It’s a tribute to Cotillard’s talents that it feels like she underplayed a roll in which a woman pops pills for depression, attempts suicide, cries 5 times in the first 20 minutes. This could’ve gone off the rails in the hands of someone else and doesn’t. She carries it physically too—gaunt
- It does play like a beat the clock thriller on paper but there are no stylistic flourishes or cinematic plays for drama. The Dardenne brothers are about avoiding that. No musical score, no ticking clock, no even impatience really. It is a procedural. The time does fly though
- Shot in chronological order for effect. Dardenne’s said they had 12 Angry Men in mind a bit trying to convince people to change their mind- for sure
- Seventh film together for the Dardenne’s go-to actor Olivier Gourmet who plays an important role late in the film
- No happy Hollywood ending, but not total bleakness with the “we put up a good fight”
- Highly Recommend—very fine auteur cinema