Footnotes (Sur quel pied danser) (2016)

A young woman begins working in an old school shoe factory as it is under closure threat from the company trying to save a buck and move the production to a less expensive country.  Through the fight to save the factory and the jobs, she and her co-workers learn a lot about themselves, each other, and life in general.

Written by Paul Calori and Kostia Testut who both also co-directed, Footnotes is a film inspired by films of yore, specifically those of Jacques Demy and Stanley Donen.  It’s a musical, but an odd one of sorts.  The film is mostly a sad affair about people possibly losing their way of life to globalization, but it has a happy tone which is somehow reminiscent of the Catherine Deneuve starrer Potiche.  The tone feels odd and off at first, but as the film moves along, it makes sense and starts to feel almost happy.  The film is written in a way that takes a rather dark subject and through storytelling and oddly happy music, becomes a lighter film that is easy to watch and care for its characters.

The film’s cast is led by Pauline Etienne as Julie, the young woman who starts working at the factory as it is about to close. Wanting to work and survive clashes with her wanting to belong with the striking ladies. It’s something that she fights throughout the film, eventually taking a side and finding more happiness that way.  Her character is central and important, but the film’s main focus is the factory and its potential closing, something that is done through her performance as well as that of the other ladies who are a strong ensemble cast.  Their work is great here and keeps the ambivalent feeling going through the film.

The film has a particular look created through older scenes of factory workers picketing and a few other older images mixed with the film itself which has its own look thanks to cinematography by Julien Meurice.  This put together through the editing of Damien Maestraggi creates a specific look and feel for the story to be told through as well as a lighter feel for the heavy story.  A good example of this is the dance battle-like fight and how it just seems to make sense within the musical film and the picketing ladies.

Footnotes is a hopeful film about globalization, small towns, and youth trying to make it.  It’s great and a surprisingly light watch.  Its only downfall is the last scene, that last sequence that breaks everything the lead character of Julie has come to stand for through one simple action, undoing the character and giving the film a frustrating ending.  That notwithstanding, Footnotes is worthwhile watch with some fun, light sequences, an obsession with shoes, and a message about globalization that is passes rather easily and not forcefully.