Human, Too Human

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?

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