This French feature is fun, casual, and mildly disappointing…
Footnotes (French: Sur quel pied danser) is a romantic musical comedy written and directed by Paul Calori and Kostia Testut. The film commences with an archival reel of artisans within the (fictional) Jacques Couture luxury shoe brand factory in Romans, France. After this, we see our heroine Julie (Pauline Etienne) get fired from a sales girl position in a sneaker store.
This is followed by a job search presented in montage as Julie flits from one crappy job to another, turned away by all. Finally, she arrives at the Jacques Couture factory where, following a little tiff between her and a supervisor, Julie is granted a job on a trial period.
As the plot of the film thickens, the true conflict is revealed when we learn that Xavier (Loïc Corbery), the ‘big boss’ of the company in Paris, is planning to outsource jobs and lay off all the factory workers. The workers all rally together, take a big bus to Paris to confront Xavier, and later organize a strike to try and fight for their jobs. It’s worth noting that all the actual shoemakers who work in the factory are women, many of whom mention having husbands and children at home. Meanwhile, the factory boss and the warehouse workers who try to move forward with the downsizing, while claiming to have the ladies’ best interests at heart, are all men.
Keeping these facts in mind, Footnotes begins to seem like a feminist story about women supporting each other, fighting for workers’ rights and job protections, and not letting men push them around for the sake of higher profit margins. Throughout the film the music is catchy and fun, but the song that really stands out is the musical number sung when all hope seems to be lost. Julie and office factory office secretary Sophie (Julie Victor) explore the old design studio and showroom while Sophie sings about the glory and personalities of all the old beautiful shoe designs. This number is the only in the film that has choreography that isn’t clunky and it’s absolutely lovely to see the all the gorgeous shoes paraded across the screen. Finally, she and Julie settle on a bright red patent leather flat with black soles called L’insoumise (The Rebel) for a plan to rally even more women from outside the factory to save their jobs.
At last, the day is saved, all the jobs are preserved, and Julie is offered an extremely secure permanent job contract with government protections, healthcare, vacation benefits, and even Christmas bonuses. Instead of taking the job, Julie walks out of the office and runs to a bus station where she absconds to god knows where with a man she slept with once, kissed twice, and had maybe four conversations with. Since the beginning of the film Julie’s sole goal had always been to pass her trial period and earn this job, as she said and sang time and again in almost every scene. However, all personal goals seem to be forgotten the moment her bland-looking love interest tries to leave town without her.
I guess that’s the best ending one can expect from a French film directed by two men.
The disappointment felt by the ending is made greater by the positive pro-women arc the film had been making until that point. Footnotes had even passed the Bechdel test.
From a technical standpoint, the film is quite lovely. The music is interesting and catchy. The color palette is a beautiful whirl of pastels that add character to complement all the personalities. The singing isn’t half-bad. Some of the scenes are really cleverly written. The choreography feels a little lost and over-dramatized, but then again the film doesn’t even seem to take itself seriously.
All in all, Footnotes wasn’t a bad watch, but it was so disappointingly regressive that I don’t think it’s something I have any desire to watch again.
Footnotes was directed by Paul Calori and Kostia Testut. It stars Pauline Etienne, Julie Victor, Olivier Chantreau, François Morel, and Loïc Corbery. It will premiere in the United States in select theaters on July 14 2017.