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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Travailler plus pour gagner moins

More Work, Less Pay - New Ken Loach Film Reviewed

Translated Sunday 6 January 2008, by Helen Robertshaw

Defiant as ever, Ken Loach waxes indignant about the neoliberal tide that we are caught up in.

It’s a Free World! by Ken Loach. UK, 1hr 36.

Throughout his career, Ken Loach has focused his camera on the exploited. Here he is once again, with his trusty collaborator, the screenwriter Paul Laverty (the film won Best Screenplay at the latest Venice Film Festival), this time homing in on the exploiters, or rather the exploited who try to escape their condition by becoming exploiters themselves.

The film is set in London and centres around the character Angie (Kierston Wareing, an actress bursting with energy), whom we have just seen working in Poland, recruiting workers for a labour agency who promise the earth to those who will do as they’re told. When a male colleague dares to make an inappropriate sexual gesture towards her, it’s the last straw. This determined young woman, who combines a demanding job, life as a single mother responsible for raising her young son and an open sex life, decides to set up her own business, with the help of Rose (Juliet Ellis), her black friend with whom she shares a rented house.

We are plunged into the “free world” of capitalism, heralded in the title, indicated also by the exclamation mark (which curiously replaces the three suspension marks in the title of the print screened at Venice) making it clear, for those who have never before seen a film by Laverty and Loach, exactly what the two comrades think about the situation.

As expected, all tricks are permitted, especially the most underhand ones, resulting in a film that is at once action-packed, realist and picaresque, full of twists and turns. Viewers are obviously struck by the fact that the two villains of the day are women, one of whom is black. There is no concern for political correctness here, but instead we witness the eternal struggle for bread and survival, irrespective of gender or race.

The film is fast-paced, defiant and harsh. It is everything one would expect from Laverty and Loach of course, to coin someone else’s phrase, but this comment seems to strike the right chord and does the film justice. At seventy-one years of age, the much-admired Loach hasn’t rested on his laurels since winning the Palme d’Or Award at Cannes in 2006. Passionate and indignant, he continues to make films.

Jean Roy

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