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Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) (2014)

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Is the managers' position even an "ism", though? The film makes it pretty clear that, during Sandra's absence, the managers realized they didn't need her to make their quota -- so why keep paying her to be there?

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This finally opened in Raleigh, so I was able to take wife and some friends. Continue to love the film. One interesting thing I thought about that I had really focused on before...

 

the second vote is prompted, allegedly b/c Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet) "talked to" some people and scared them with insinuations that if they voted to keep Sandra on, one of them would be fired instead. Ironically, this is exactly what happens, even though the vote doesn't go her way. Also, in Sandra's final meeting, the manager essentially confirms what Julien says Jean-Marc reported, that her absences demonstrated that 16 could do the job instead of seventeen. (Although he doesn't get into the required overtime to do so.) So despite Jean-Marc's role as putative villain, there is a reading of the script where he is actually just giving information to people, not, as Sandra's husband suggests, just trying to intimidate or scare people. 



Also, I had recognized the irony that Anne and her husband want the bonus to "build a deck" on their house, but others pointed out that the son in the father-son pairing was driving a car that had obviously had a lot of work done to it and so seemed to have enough money to put into a prestige muscle car. It's thus somewhat ironic--or telling--that the the two participants who resort to physical violence or intimidations (Anne's husband grabs her forcefully and pulls her back in the house) appear to be the ones who are the best-off, or among the best off, financially. [/spoilers]

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First impressions.

 

These guys get better all the time at visual composition, at making us think we're looking at "realism" when the physical details within the frame (and within the range of sounds) are actually becoming a concentrated and meaningful vocabulary. Brick walls. Carrots. Water. Throats. Song. Rearview mirrors. Yes, even the orange and teal color scheme — they're all speaking meaningfully into story.

 

Also: A strong candidate for my favorite husband in the history of movies.

 

I can't wait to unpack all of this in a review.

 

Having finally found a chance to see this, I can finally start reading other people's reviews. I've been extra careful this time around. 

Edited by Overstreet

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Just discovered that this is now rentable for streaming on Google Play.

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Finally reviewed this!

 

The Dardennes’ best characters usually make moral choices for reasons that are unstated or mysterious to the viewer or even to the characters themselves. Here, for perhaps the first time, a character, Alphonse (Serge Koto), says that the selfless choice “is what God tells me to do. I have to help my neighbor.”

 
At the 2014 New York Film Festival, I had an opportunity to ask the Dardennes about this choice. Through a translator, they replied, among other things, that this seemed to them the right motivation for this particular character. Perhaps among 16 blue-collar coworkers it makes sense that one (an immigrant, perhaps an African) is a devout believer. Yet in a number of ways, the film gives both his choice and his motive decisive importance.
 
This is not because of the outcome of the second vote, or not directly. The film’s master stroke is that, having spent the whole film building up to the second vote, the climax ultimately turns on something else.
 
It is significant, I think, that the Dardennes gave this explicit religious motivation to a minor figure rather than to the protagonist or a major character. This choice accords with their customary approach to the central moral choices that drive their stories, and perhaps reflects their strategy for addressing a profoundly secular European culture. Yet in an indirect way, Alphonse’s choice and motives become decisive in the last moments of the film. We have to help our neighbor.

 

 

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Can anyone explain to me why thedissolve.com trumpeted the release of this film on June 16th on Netflix Instant, when in fact it appears that it has not arrived on Netflix in any form? Do these sorts of dates often change based on last-minute deals behind the scenes?  Was really hoping to catch this somewhere…

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At first, I didn't think "one character has the same conversation with 12 people" sounded like a good idea for a movie. I'm still not sure it is, but wow is Cotillard good in this. Because of the story's structure, though, you never get more than an introduction to most of the characters. Their responses land on an theoretical/practical level, but not so much on an emotional level (Anne and Alphonse are the exceptions, I'd say).

 

Cool to see the boy from Rosetta grown up here (he plays Sandra's husband).

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At first, I didn't think "one character has the same conversation with 12 people" sounded like a good idea for a movie. I'm still not sure it is, but wow is Cotillard good in this. Because of the story's structure, though, you never get more than an introduction to most of the characters. Their responses land on an theoretical/practical level, but not so much on an emotional level (Anne and Alphonse are the exceptions, I'd say).

 

Cool to see the boy from Rosetta grown up here (he plays Sandra's husband).

He's also in Lorna's Silence as well as The Kid with a Bike and L'Enfant.

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Is there something about the Dardennes' cinema that you learn or "get" more with each successive film of theirs that you see?  I really do think I grow to love their aesthetic more and more with time.  With each film of theirs that I see, I understand more and more what is precious and special about their cinema.  This is especially true when I compare them to all of the ordinary cinema that I see in between each Dardennes film.

I was more impacted by The Kid with the Bike and 2 Days, 1 Night than by The Son and L'Enfant, but I don't think that's necessarily because those most recent two are any better than the earlier two.  I think it's because my taste for the Dardennes flavor has been sharpened.

Can anyone explain this phenomenon in words?  Who here has had a similar experience? 

Edited by Brian D

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I forgot to mention that I showed this at a community gathering earlier this month. For me, it improved slightly on a second viewing, but I discovered that the audience struggled with many of the same things I did the first time around. I suspect that there is a cultural disconnect here. The idea of a two-income household living paycheck to paycheck is so common in the U.S., yet they were flummoxed by what they saw: Sandra and her family living in an attractive home, driving a nice car, eating good food, etc. So why is she freaking out? Can't she just find another job? (American optimism versus European determinism.) 

But the comments that really took me by surprise were the ones related to Manu, the husband. Certainly they were not blind to his finer qualities (chiefly, his gentleness and tenderness), but isn't he kind of pushy and insistent? Why isn't he the one looking for a better position rather than settling for the cafeteria gig? And why is he constantly stopping for snacks when they are on such a tight budget?

For my part, the only thing that really struck me as false was the suicide attempt/recovery in which Sandra is up and running after a few hours' convalescence. Much like the hero of a Hollywood action flick in which the protag is beaten to a bloody pulp and the next day is back on the job with nothing but a Bandaid to show for it.

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**Spoilers**

I showed this in class the other night...been a couple years since last revisited it. Not sure if this aspect has been talked about much, but I was struck by the fact that the reason for the revote, we are told over-and-over again is that Jean-Marc "lied" to some people and told them that if Sandra was taken back, someone else would be fired/let go. 

This is, of course, exactly the deal they offer her at the end of the film. 

Perhaps I read too much into it, but that ending does invite readers to go back and reconsider the putative antagonists/villains. Given the constant refrain of (I think I counted at least four times where someone said) "put yourself in my shoes" it seems to me meaningful in some way that Jean-Marc's alleged warnings (to some who voted against Sandra returning) could be credibly interpreted as just that, warnings, even though we spend most of the film sharing Sandra's interpretation that they are lies and intimidations. 

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4 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Given the constant refrain of (I think I counted at least four times where someone said) "put yourself in my shoes"

Sarah Cooper has a great chapter on this refrain in Immanent Frames: Postsecular Cinema between The Tree of Life and Melancholia, edited by John Caruana and Mark Cauchi, where she suggests that the film is a pseudo "stations of the cross," taking place over a weekend (but not quite "three nights in the grave") and her journey to various individuals (but 16 employees, not 14 stations). I think her interpretation has some merit, though it's not the only way to read the film. But I don't think she touches much on Jean-Marc's perspective. It's interesting how we're asked to place ourselves in the shoes of so many of these individuals via the small snapshots we get of their lives--one can imagine an entire film following around any one of these characters and their particular circumstances, like they're other Dardennes' movies waiting to happen--but Jean-Marc and M. Dumont (the one who ultimately makes the decision about who is fired) aren't necessarily portrayed in such a sympathetic/empathetic way. Jean-Marc does seem antagonistic and gruff towards Sandra and the others, though that doesn't mean he necessarily lied.

A recurring theme in the more recent Dardennes' films (Lorna's Silence onward) is the medium/form of communication, when communication breaks down and when it is enhanced via technology. Phones and apartment intercoms (as well as video recordings in The Unknown Girl) are a constant presence--sometimes they bring connection between people, sometimes they hinder connection. So, I wouldn't be surprised if this ambiguous portrayal of Two Days, One Night's antagonists is intentional; maybe it's all just a misunderstanding, an inability for both Sandra and the audience to "put yourself in my shoes."

Edited by Joel Mayward

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Revisiting this thread after studying these filmmakers so intensely is fascinating, especially seeing the criticisms raised about "realism" regarding some of Sandra's actions and decisions. That's the *whole point* of what the Dardennes do with characters in every one of their major films: characters make a moral/spiritual/personal decision that seems to come out of left field, that doesn't "make sense" or "feel realistic," where even the characters themselves will admit "I don't know" when pressed about their motives or reasoning. It's one of the biggest critiques film critics have made over the years about the Dardennes' approach--the critics don't understand why Igor would suddenly choose to protect an immigrant woman instead of his dad in La Promesse, or why Olivier takes Francis under his care in Le Fils, or why Lorna tries to suddenly help Claudy in Lorna's Silence, or why Samantha essentially adopts Cyril in The Kid with a Bike. I could go on. "It's not believable," is the common critique. To which I reply, why not? Why not believe a woman on the brink of suicide can rebound? Why not believe a working-class woman would abandon her boyfriend to adopt a troubled, violent kid? Why not believe a teenage delinquent raised to look out for himself, when faced with mortality, would decide upon self-sacrifice and mercy? I think this is the mysterious underlying hope within the Dardennes' ethos--they believe people can change for the better at any moment, and that there's more going on internally/spiritually than we can fully summarize with a simple reason or motive.

Edited by Joel Mayward

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7 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

"put yourself in my shoes" it seems to me meaningful in some way that Jean-Marc's alleged warnings (to some who voted against Sandra returning) could be credibly interpreted as just that, warnings, even though we spend most of the film sharing Sandra's interpretation that they are lies and intimidations. 

Good catch. Put yourself in Jean-Marc's shoes.  Sandra is no perfect victim launching her retaliatory smear campaign and trying to kill herself! Justifiable anger is not a luxury to easily afford.  It can mean going overboard too, and getting reeled in.  Sandra's absence happened to get the solar-panel factory thinking about a new business model for economic survival. The modern workplace as a tragedy.

 

2 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

A recurring theme in the more recent Dardennes' films (Lorna's Silence onward) is the medium/form of communication, when communication breaks down and when it is enhanced via technology. Phones and apartment intercoms (as well as video recordings in The Unknown Girl) are a constant presence--sometimes they bring connection between people, sometimes they hinder connection. So, I wouldn't be surprised if this ambiguous portrayal of Two Days, One Night's antagonists is intentional; maybe it's all just a misunderstanding, an inability for both Sandra and the audience to "put yourself in my shoes."

I like that too. The technology indictment reference. It flows with the modern workplace tragedy theme. Industrialization run amok.

And since you were comparing them: The politicking in Two Days, One Night is a bit dry like a documentary, it did not keep my attention as well as The Unknown Girl did with its mystery and some thrill. I've only seen three of the Dardennes, those two and The Kid with a Bike. The only one I liked a lot on first viewing and cold with no background info was The Unknown Girl.

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The Jean-Marc thing is interesting to me because I was/am teaching the "Ideology" chapter out of Understanding Movies. It's hopelessly reductive, like Gerald Graff (I think) said, reductive is a good place to start so long as you don't stay there. In the heading of "Cooperation versus Competition" he says:

Quote

People on the left believe that social progress is best achieved by cooperative effort on the part of all citizens toward a common goal [....] Rightists emphasize open market principles and the need for competition to bring out the best in everyone...

On the surface, the film seems easy enough to pigeon-hole as favoring cooperation over competition. (Those who vote for the bonus tend in the film to be richer, more often male, and more ready to resort to physical violence.) But...Sandra is transformed not by charity but by struggle. She goes from being suicidal to feeling "happy" because we gave a good "fight." 

Jean-Marc is lumped together with Dumont, but I think his role is more akin to a capo. He is part of the battle-royale that the rich impose on the workers. He reminds me, actually, of the Williamson character in Glengarry Glen Ross. In the play, Williamson is more of the villain, lording it over Shelley because "I don't like you." In the movie, Mamet brings in the Alec Baldwin character and clarifies more that Williamson is head of the office but closer in power to the workers than the owners. Also, it's worth noting, that even if Jean-Marc does break the rules (by talking out of school or spreading gossip), so does Sandra's friend, who uses her position in the office to give Sandra some of the addresses she needs from the company records. 

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On 11/1/2018 at 5:51 PM, Joel Mayward said:

"It's not believable," is the common critique.......they believe people can change for the better at any moment,

They are believable characters to me, just out of the norm for today maybe. Wonder if they say "not believable" because they can't figure out what it really is that confounds them?

On 11/2/2018 at 5:29 PM, kenmorefield said:

He reminds me, actually, of the Williamson character in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Watched this Mamet movie after your mention. Middle management, Line management what a concept. They can waffle. Sometimes they lack integrity. Line managers would be, or probably were at one time, great floor level workers, but management paid them off with a position and cash. In the end, those types always side with the higher-ups. Floor level workers ought to wary of their immediate supervisor or foreman because they are management, not a comrade. If I'm honest, if I were in Sandra's place or sales guy in the Glengarry Glen Ross cast I'd probably be quick to accuse Jean-Marc or Williamson of doing something viscous or being ignorant sometime etc, I'd try to have my ducks in a row but I might not have all the facts.

 

On 11/2/2018 at 5:29 PM, kenmorefield said:

Sandra is transformed not by charity but by struggle.

That's awesome.

Edited by Mike_tn

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