Denis Côté’s hybrid meditation on work made its debut last year the Berlinale. It has screened at CPH:DOX, Viennale, Chicago, Hot Docs, Melbourne, Poland’s New Horizons, Edinburgh, Sydney, Los Angeles, Cinema du Reel, and Transylvania, among others.
Côté has moved between the realms of fiction and nonfiction in previous works, and his latest continues this playful mixture as he integrates moments of scripted narrative in this otherwise largely observational study of mechanization and workers. On the nonfiction side, the camera is trained over images of factories and other large workplaces – primarily shots of machinery – creating an industrial symphony of sorts, though the workers caught in the drudgery of repetitive manual labor are also glimpsed. The hypnotic quality of these carefully composed shots is interrupted to introduce short fictionalized moments – interactions between workers, cheeky monologues, etc – which flesh out the themes of work, though not completely in an expected way. Rather than focusing on their clear alienation and dissatisfaction, these scenes instead suggest if not happiness, a sense of more-or-less satisfaction in their work, tedious as it might be. Still, as often is the case with hybrid projects, the nonfiction elements seem weakened by the scripted ones, making the project feel uneven on the whole.