“Change is important to me,” Vincent tells wife Muriel, whom he assures that his change in jobs will also improve their marriage—a revelation of his insecurity. What Muriel does not know is that Vincent was fired from the job that he had had for eleven years. Although “dressed for success,” Vincent now has nowhere to go, so he pretends otherwise, perpetrating a scheme amongst friends—“acquaintances,” he insists—whereby he extracts their money while presumably investing it in “emerging markets.” His pretend-job is in Geneva. Each time he visits his family in France, we see how important they are to him—how his sense of authority among wife and young sons and daughter once held back the void that he has since fallen into.
In Laurent Cantet’s beautiful, complex L’emploi du temps, Vincent eventually falls into a shady job transporting cheaply made goods from former Soviet satellites and selling them at a fantastic mark-up. If Vincent’s own investment charade suggested a parody of globalization, here is, however minor-league, the real thing—capitalism’s reinvention of colonialism under the term global economy. Hilariously, here we speak of one part of Europe vis-à-vis another—not of Africa, for instance, which is the concern of a Swiss enterprise that is supposed to have something to do with the United Nations and strikes us as being as specious as Vincent’s own “enterprises.”
In the film’s most mesmerizing and moving passage, Muriel is visiting Vincent in Geneva and the couple are hiking in the snow. Vincent, ahead, turns around; Muriel is nowhere to be seen. Has the whole episode been a delusion? Finally, the mist of snow clears and Vincent spots his wife, who has stopped to take in the view. She asks: “Did you think you had lost me?”
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