Films: The Salesman

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The Salesman  {Le Vendeur}

The Salesman
Le Vendeur

Canada, 2010, 107 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: Drama, Family Issues, French/French Canadian
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: French English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Sébastien Pilote
Producer: Bernadette Payeur, Marc Daigle
Editor: Michel Arcand
Screenwriter: Sébastien Pilote
Cinematographer: Michel La Veaux
Principal Cast: Gilbert Sicotte, Nathalie Cavezzali, Jérémy Tessier, Jean-François Boudreau, Pierre Leblanc

The lonely hero of this quietly moving drama, set in rural Quebec in bitter winter, is one Marcel Levesque (the superb Gilbert Sicotte)—a 67-year-old car salesman whose courteous, fastidious manner reveals that he has come to see his much-maligned line of work as a high calling, a kind of secular priesthood. “To sell cars, you have to pray,” he asserts.

For the most part, his prayers have been answered. Unlike that classic failure Willy Loman, Marcel has remained the region's top producer for decades; his office wall is covered with award plaques. His wife has died, but he still has the love of a considerate daughter (Nathalie Cavezzal) and a playful grandson (Jérémy Tessier), and he still records his sales pitches on micro-cassette. “I can always get better,” he says. Inevitably, though, a kind of death looms for this salesman, too. Workers at the local paper mill have been laid off, and the plant may soon close permanently. That would spell disaster for car sales, so Marcel's daughter urges him to retire. But retirement would threaten his very identity, his calling, his spirit. He determines to hang on.

First-time feature writer-director Sébastian Pilote has produced an indelible, heart-rending portrait of an everyman whose routine has become religion—and whose deepest beliefs are about to be shaken. Beneath the relentless snows of Canada, we can hear a lone heart beating, but for how long?

Sponsored by Consulate General of Canada in Denver, Quebec Government Office in Los Angeles

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