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Human, All Too Human, October 15

The Mechanical Age

Sunday, October 15, 2006
5:30 p.m. Human, All Too Human
Louis Malle (France, 1972)

(Humain, trop humain). A woman negotiates an enormous overhead crane to deliver, godlike, a giant object to the floor of what is revealed to be an automobile manufacturing plant, full of brightly painted metal and constant movement. It's a filmmaker's paradise, and the camera has to be seen as another machine in this circumstance, the director another on the "chain de montage" (assembly line) referred to in the prologue to this strangely, perhaps deceptively captivating documentary shot in the Citroën plant in Rennes. With no commentary, and not a word from the workers, we see them ply their considerable skills in various circumstances, none of them easy. Malle looks at the movements, the time, and the intensity of workers' investment in Modern Times. His dispassionate stance is at times almost Bressonian, at others, as comic as Tati. The title confounds: is this the human face of our machine world, or are these humans being turned into machines?

—Judy Bloch

• Photographed by Etienne Becker, Malle. (110 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Janus/Criterion Collection)

Preceded by short:

Symphonie mécanique (Jean Mitry, France, 1955). The activities of factories become an abstract ballet set to music by Pierre Boulez. (13 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Argos Films)

• (Total running time: 123 mins)