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Sac French Film Festival Premieres “Le Couperet”

The Sacramento French Film Festival sponsored a special screening of "Le Couperet" at the Crest Theatre on Thursday. The premiere was a precursor to the 9th Sacramento French Film Festival, June 18-27. "Le Couperet," a social-political thriller and dark comedy, introduced audiences to a new meaning of “survival of the fittest” in the job market.


Jose Garcia stars as Bruno Davert, a middle-aged paper chemist who’s been forced into unemployment by the merger of his company. Unable to find work, he resorts to extreme measures to eliminate the competition in his specialized field. His rationale is that it will increase his chances of securing employment with the only leading company left in the city.


Director Costa Gavras expertly underscores social, political and economic themes with this clever film adaptation of a novel by Donald E. Westlake. Costa Gavras deftly uses this medium to make a bold and effective statement about issues such as outsourcing jobs, corporate downsizing and immigration. Other subjects explored in the film include green energy and recycling, white-collar crime, gender in the workplace, self-purpose and identity.


Although the film is set in Europe and debuted in 2005, well before the economic downturn of this nation, one can’t help but feel that art is now mimicking reality.


Kevin Elstob, French professor at California State University, Sacramento, led the after-film discussion. He referred to this genre as “social fiction” that sets up something that’s not necessarily real but is based in reality.


“Costa Gavras is known for presenting strong social messages in his films,” Elstob said. “With a diverse cast in this film, you get a sense that there are no borders anymore in Europe, there’s an influx of jobs for immigrants … and there’s a much bigger and ambiguous space in how it’s affecting the rest of the country.”


"Le Couperet" challenges viewers to ask, What would happen if people eliminated their competitors because of a steep increase in unemployment? What if they got rid of them because of a job shortage that resulted from outsourcing jobs to foreigners?


The film provides great social commentary and inspires conversation. Audiences will compare the current economic problems of the United States to those depicted in the film.


Elstob pointed out that the novel on which "Le Couperet" is based, The Ax, was set in New England.


Costa Gavras maintains the integrity of the novel’s message despite moving the action to France and Belgium. It will make audiences ask themselves whether the ends justify the means. Is the answer affirmative when there is someone more ambitious and cutthroat waiting to oust you from your job?

Complimentary champagne and cake capped off the event, an excellent ending to an evening of French cinema.

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