In his feature-length debut, The Salesman, director and writer Sébastien Pilote takes a go at dispelling those numerous stereotypes associated with cars salesmen by making one his main character.
With purposeful slow pacing reflective of life within Marcel’s (the salesman) town, relating to the character came easy. It wasn’t until much later in the film, when an additional unnecessary plotline came into fruition that the delicately handled drama came dangerously close of turning into cliché melodrama.
The Salesman takes place in the french region of Canada known as Lac Saint-Jean and opens on a shot of a moose lying dead in the street. This image is then followed by one of a car being towed. There is little doubt as to what transpired off-screen prior to this on-screen prologue. Obviously there was an accident. Other than freshly killed Bullwinkle carcass we know nothing about the extent of injuries suffered to those involved. Is this scene making a grander statement of things to come? Is it perhaps a thematic metaphor? Or is it meant to be taken strictly at face value with no higher meaning at all?
As quickly as these questions arise do they disappear as immediately following opening credits we are introduced to the eponymous protagonist, 67-year-old Marcel (Gilbert Sicotte). He is a sophisticated and dapper man who is entering his golden years stubbornly unwilling to retire, even though the lot on which he works is in danger of closing, pending the outcome of the working-class town’s main artery, the paper plant.
Having a film be entirely about a man’s transition into seniorhood I find to be interesting enough. Throw in added factors to the story like the town’s current struggles, and Marcel’s relationship with his only remaining family, his daughter and grandson, and I’m more than satisfied. Now, add-on another layer of obstacles to the already aptly troubled salesman and what we’re left with is exactly what we started out with; roadkill.
Now, it’s doubtful that Pilote’s intention was to end his first 3 quarters of this well executed film with one final quarter of added unnecessary drama so absurd it’s laughable, but if that was the case, then indeed this joke is on me, albeit a long-winded one.
Showtimes for The Salesman:
SUN May 1 – 6:15pm (Kabuki)
TUE May 3 – 8:50pm (PFA – Berkeley)
THU May 5 – 2:00pm (Kabuki)