Playing “In the Company of Men”, 2003

Arnaud Desplechin’s fractured, self-reflexive portrait of corporate anomie, based on British author Edward Bond’s play In the Company of Men, is a frustratingly disjointed and excessively soundtracked (often with unnecessarily cranked up, thematically unrelated music from Paul Weller and The Jam that renders the dialogue inaudible) that is punctuated with episodes of fractured clarity. Fusing elements of Shakesperean tragedy and contemporary social realism, artistic performance and real life, as episodes of acting rehearsals and war news footage are intercut into the storyline, the film centers on the difficult, often troubled personal and professional relationships of a rootless, privileged businessman, Léonard (Sami Bouajila), the adopted heir of an arms manufacturer named Henri Jurrieu (Jean-Paul Roussillon), who, impatient with his stalled ascendancy within his ailing father’s company, forges a series of disreputable alliances, first, in an attempt to acquire sufficient shareholder stake for board membership, and subsequently, to prevent his father from uncovering the truth behind his duplicity. However, apart of the guerrilla-like tactics of corporate machinations (a subplot that similarly plagues, and ultimately derails, Olivier Assayas’ maddeningly unfocused film, demonlover), the most indelible moments in the film result from the seeming synthesis of nightmarish delusion and haunted memory: an image the proves to be the most visceral and elemental in deconstructing the psychological puzzle of an inscrutable, modern day tragic hero.

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