Los Angeles Film Festival 2011
By Don Simpson | July 19, 2011
Writer: Sébastien Pilote
Starring: Gilbert Sicotte, Nathalie Cavezzali, Jeremy Tessier
Marcel Lévesque (Gilbert Sicotte) is a 67-year-old car salesman living in Dolbeau-Mistassini, Quebec. But he is not just any car salesman, Marcel has been deemed “Salesman of the Month” for the last 16 years at the dealership where he has spent his entire career. A product of a bygone era of salesmanship, Marcel learned to dress his lies up nicely in order to make his customers happy — a strategy that obviously still works for him even in Dolbeau-Mistassini’s bleak economic climate.
The town of Dolbeau-Mistassini’s economic backbone is the pulp and paper industry which writer-director Sébastien Pilote’s debut feature film finds in a rapid decline. The one and only local plant has laid off a majority of its workforce — a complete closure is looming — and the skyrocketing unemployment rate is effecting all of Dolbeau-Mistassini’s businesses, especially car sales. Nonetheless, Marcel trudges onward through the literal and figurative blizzard, even selling cars to the local plant’s recently unemployed.
Work is such an important part of Marcel’s life that he lives directly across the street from the dealership. Marcel is a widow and, besides work, the only other meaning in his life is found in his daughter, Maryse (Nathalie Cavezzali), and grandson, Antoine (Jeremy Tessier). It is quite obvious that Pilote is determined to challenge his protagonist’s stagnant life.
The Salesman opens with a dead moose and a totaled car yet with no explanation of the relationship between these images and the overall narrative. Being that Marcel sells cars, it seems almost too presumptuous that we will discover that Marcel is tied in some way to this accident. Pilote lays out more than enough clues early on that it becomes quite obvious where this film is going…and let’s just say it is not a happy place.