A Marxist musical comedy might not be your first choice of weekend entertainment, but be assured that “Footnotes” won’t batter your brain with heavyweight labor theory. Rather, this feather-light French confection, written and directed by Paul Calori and Kostia Testut, addresses its dignity-of-work thesis with sweetness and heart.
The songs are unmemorable and the choreography less than twinkle-toed, but the lyrics are a delight.
“Part-time jobs ain’t fine,” trills Julie (Pauline Étienne), the determined young striver at the movie’s squishy-soft center. “Filling in forms, standing in line.” Echoing the plight of millions of young Europeans, Julie longs for permanent work, so when she lands a probationary position in the stockroom of a luxury shoe factory, the eruption of a labor dispute threatens to undermine her plans.
A cri de coeur against outsourcing and downsizing, “Footnotes” bossa novas its way through myriad themes without leaving a dent in any of them. Feminism (the shoe stitchers are all women), French craftsmanship and lack of respect for middle management are all lyricized, while empty design studios underscore the precariousness of couture itself. Love is dangled, in the smoky form of “I’m just a lonesome trucker” Samy (Olivier Chantreau), but Julie’s not having any of it. Not for the first 80 minutes, anyway.
Softening the edges of working-class dreams, the cinematographer Julien Meurice washes scenes in pale pastels and hazy light. The result is no “Norma Rae,” but its view of labor as inherently ennobling never falters.
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