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Coûte que coûte (At All Costs)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 2:45pm

Coûte que coûte (At All Costs)

Claire Simon | 
France |
 1995 | 
95 minutes


Capitalism, red in tooth and claw, is the basis of Claire Simon’s comic tragedy of business heartbreak. The scene is a small catering company in the seaside city of Nice. The brainchild of a former diplomat turned entrepreneur, Navigation Systèmes makes ready-to-eat meals for supermarkets. The business is barely a year old, but is already in major trouble. The employees haven’t been paid for months, and the phones have been cut off. Jihad, the company’s founder, smoking, sweating, and lying to his creditors, is a portrait of agonized stress. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the cooks joke around and flirt with the adorable giggler that is Gisèle, the company’s secretary. But tension is building to some final awful conclusion. Watching the place come apart piece by piece is a little like witnessing a car accident in slow motion. But the staff hang in there, in hope that they might see some of their back pay, or that things will turn around. When the bailiffs show up to repossess the equipment, things don’t look so good. In making the film, Claire Simon would visit the company at the end of the month, just as the bills were due and the decision to give up or carry on hung in this balance.

Like in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman or David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, market capitalism is a blunt brute force that eats dreams and ambition. But somehow, almost miraculously, in Coûte que coûte the human spirit endures. Life goes on, and sometimes it even heads to the beach. -DW


Claire Simon

Born in London and raised in the Var, France, Claire Simon studied ethnology as well as classical Arab and Berber. While establishing herself in the film industry as an editor, she directed short films, including the 1992 French television series “Scènes de ménage” (10 x 5 minutes) starring Miou Miou. She discovered the practice of documentary filmmaking at the Ateliers Varan workshops and directed several documentaries that were made using V8 at first, then Hi8, and then film. Her early films, “Les Patients”, “Récréations” and “Coûte que coûte”, received awards at the Cinema du Réel International Film Festival among others. Most recently, she has made two feature-length documentary films: “Le bois dont les rêves sont faits”, whose theatrical release is scheduled for early 2016, and “Le concours”, which is currently in post-production. Read more about Claire Simon here.