Time Out

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 04/13/02 20:34:05

"Hi Ho, Hi Ho, its NOT off to work I go"
3 stars (Average)

Time Out makes a drama out of the most common of all life situations - one's job. I like how it goes into a focus on character and only hints at the desperation felt by a man trapped by the economic obligations in his life and the difficult choices he makes to care of his family rather than serve his wanderlust.

I liked the locations, the Alpine winter, the rustic cabin and picture of modern europe far from the folk fairytale sold in travel publications, instead using convenience stores, glass and chrome buildings and cityscapes as the backdrop.

Corporate life looks pretty much the same wherever you encounter it, as does the middle class lifestyle. The banal exterior hides the vicious, complicitous and difficult life contained within. Those normal ways we have to go about earning the money that allows us to have middle class comforts and raise a family and the challenges and joys that come from that lifestyle are as much a prison as they are a sort of freedom.

I really liked how so much of the film was about economics and the shifty, shaky ground of international investment and how easily people can be compromised. It made me think of Signs and Wonders with Stellan Skaarsgaard with a focus on how one's job affects and conditions so much of how you live your life and the choices it either allows or chokes off.

The lead character, Vincent (Aurelien Recoin) was complicated and let me define him from my own experiences, beliefs and prejudices rather than have all his motivations carefully laid out. I was attracted to his rapacious desire for freedom and his struggle between romanticism and pathetic irresponsibility. But as a gay man, I don’t really relate to the paradigm of the nuclear family and think of relationship as much more amoebic and more about pleasure and adventure then about stability and procreation. I am completely male in my approach to life and have the luxury of shuffling off the so called war between the sexes to pursure a more leisurely, idyllic lifestyle.

Vincent, after being fired, hides this fact from his family by sleeping in his car, making phone calls from other countries and even swindling his friends to generate an income. When you find out that he could have gotten another job right away you know that he’s not a man out on his luck trying to save face in a world that demands so much from men as breadwinner and center of the family (in this particular version, it’s certainly not how I was brought up in a radically feminist yet surprisingly non-lesbian environment). The film doesn’t explain why he continues his charade which let me invent all kinds of fabulous theories based on psychology and wild speculation.

Its almost like watching a descent into madness as he continues to make choices that are so counter to what his stated goals are. Is he going to take care of his family and strap himself to a life he may no longer want or is he going to keep following the winding road into the night. The choice is made for him in the beginning. His life has no meaning without fulfilling his husbandly and fatherly duties and I only hope that somewhere in that character is some sense of himself.

His wife Muriel (Karin Viard) absolutely identifies herself with the family and its needs as all women in our society learn to do. I was a little surprised that his wife was content to let him keep part of his life from her, but I guess that's the French flavor of the film. She wouldn’t ask questions and he would just say he was “in Sweden for business” and when asked wouldn’t talk about his new job. And she never pressed, not because she was afraid the answer would be something she couldn’t deal with, but because he was the man and business was his business, not hers. She was to cook, drive the kids to Karate practice and help organize events at the elementary school.

Time Out is just over two hours long and at times, it really feels like. But it starts to pick up after about the first hour if you’ve got the patience to sit through it. When he meets the hotelier who is also a counterfeit goods smuggler, the whole swashbuckling element comes in and I just liked the footage of driving through a forgotten winding Alpine road and lifting up the guardrail at an abandoned border crossing.

That scene had its own meaning for me and since I firmly believe a poem, a film, a work of art, can change meaning depending on the experience of the audience, that was enough to keep me interested in my own fantasies that the film suggested to me, however unintentionally but with as great an effect.

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