The subject of the new French film Footnotes could hardly be more topical: Outsourcing and its resulting job losses. And for those worried that the subject sounds ponderous, the movie is actually a musical and deals with its theme with both a light and serious touch.

Footnotes centers on 20-ish Julie (Pauline Etienne) who finds a promising permanent position in an upscale shoe factory after holding down a number of unrewarding temp jobs (apparently they have those in Europe, too). As soon as she begins her new job, rumors begin to circulate through the factory that there will be lay-offs due to “upgrading” and outsourcing. The workers travel to Paris to confront the company’s owner who through a (literally) smooth song and dance number very temporarily mollifies his employees.

Amidst all the turmoil, Julie strikes up a relationship with a trucker (Olivier Chantreau) who sings of his trucking life with such lyrics as: “I’m just a lonesome trucker; Longing for a change of scene; Seeing myself as a movie star; On a Technicolor screen.”

With its use of music and dance to discuss serious social and economic issues, Footnotes has something of a Brecht-ian atmosphere. Although it is probably incongruous to use the word “entertaining” when discussing a film about free trade and declining living standards, I did find the film very enjoyable to watch and the 84 minutes of its running time went by quickly. The film is directed by Paul Calori and Kostia Testut. The songs, while perhaps not exactly memorable, do contribute a sense of lightness to the proceedings.

Job loss and outsourcing was obviously a major issue in the last American election and the events in Footnotes could easily have taken place in any industrial (or-post industrial town) in the U.S. Globalization means just that, and in watching Footnotes I was constantly reminded of the lyric from the theme music of Cheers about troubles being the same everywhere.

And the the film also has a sense of irony. After spending the bulk of its running length dealing with the hard realities of labor relations, the ending of Footnotes is reminiscent of the end of The Graduate in showing that material factors are not everything. It being France, perhaps it is not surprising that amour ultimately trumps all other considerations.

Footnotes opens July 14.

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