February 26, 2008
The Feelings Factory, 2008
For successful, attractive, career-minded, thirty-something real estate attorney, Éloïse (Elsa Zylberstein), there is a certain efficiency and reassuring sense of retained control in the dynamics of speed dating that proves particularly appealing: seven pre-selected men, seven minute face-to-face meetings to form - and leave - an impression and exchange information that, at the end of each allotted time, allows each participant to start anew no matter how promising or disastrous the previous encounter proved to be, and, at the end of the evening, the flexibility to pursue or reject a subsequent relationship with any or all of the eligible bachelors or simply walk away. At first, the rapid fire pace of the encounters proves awkward, reducing the conversations to polite small talk, uncomfortable silences, reflexive regurgitations of one's curriculum vitae, or impromptu interrogations that attempt to dissect the failures of past relationships as a means of evaluating future compatibility. Nevertheless, Éloïse remains unfazed, sensing a potentially suitable complement in the handsome, self-assured trial lawyer, Jean-Luc (Bruno Putzulu), even as she finds a momentary, if reluctant connection with the insecure, neurotic André (Jacques Bonnaffé) amidst the din and haze of the evening's self-induced emotional rollercoaster. But the cracks in Éloïse's carefully controlled existence have already begun to surface, metastasizing in bouts fainting spells, unexplained physiological changes, and panic attacks that would soon send her to a series of medical specialists in search of proper diagnosis and treatment. Struggling with the physical and emotional toll of her increasingly complicated professional and personal life, Éloïse is forced to set aside her romantic ideals of finding perfect love in order to confront the mundane reality of her debilitating (and life-altering) illness. Expounding on his earlier film, Work Hard, Play Hard, Jean-Marc Moutout's The Feelings Factory (La Fabrique des sentiments) similarly captures the anxieties of urban existence, industrialization, modern identity, and disposability. At the core of Moutout's articulate and lucid contemporary portrait of love in an age of technological convenience (and anonymity) is Zylberstein's remarkable, subtly modulated performance - alternately struggling between pragmatism and quixotic romanticism - where the human heart, too, is a compromised, tradable commodity of instant gratification, weighed options, and accepted risk.