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June 27, 2022

Comedy Cluj 2013 – `Best script`: Office amazons

It was the time of secretaries. One result of the post-war economic boom was this, among others: an army of secretaries that represented bureaucratic capitalism, a world in which handling papers, drafting contracts and managing files became a mass profession. The secretary becomes the apprentice of an entrepreneur brave enough to launch his business. Efficient loyalty and invigorating solidarity are some of the traits expected from these new amazons who, though more discrete, are also aware of this unique opportunity to assert themselves socially. As ‘the secretary’ meant a new social status – for with greater economic independence comes overcoming old patriarchal mentalities – a transition occurred from rural to urban and a new moral code of couples emerged. This is the background for Regis Roinsard’s ‘Populaire’, a comedy about speed typing contests. The employer, played as a cross between a shy, sadistic and gentlemanly individual with a tinge of duplicity by Romain Duris, is a failed athlete who becomes a successful coach. The girl’s sense of ambition and proneness to romance helps as well. Most likely, the movie’s subject rather than a more or less trivial script was valued by the jury. Anything can stir up trends and passions, so why not speed typing? Especially in the almost glamorous world of typewriters, ruled by humanized machines. From beauty pageant to sports competition, the secretaries’ quest becomes a hallmark of ‘new times’. The features of the three main contestants – the Normand small-town girl, the Parisian and the American – outline social effigies. The ambitious girl rebels against the gloomy outlook of an arranged marriage and a hereditary ‘vocation’ and comes face to face with an arrogant demimondaine girl from the capital city where dreams come true, who is associated with flamboyant capitalism from an erotic and promotional standpoint, and finally with the sublimated hipster girl and epitome of efficiency. The film abounds in clichés slightly nuanced by the unsophisticated eroticism of the small-town girl and the hesitation of a lover whose girlfriend was once stolen from under his nose by a more pragmatic American. Perhaps it is this very juvenile failure that intensifies his determination in winning against the Americans on their own turf, be it in speed typing. His step backwards, a strategy used to the benefit of his apprentice, seems to be a compensation for his sacrificial complex of a good man who has not yet given his life for a cause. Psychoanalytically speaking, the American triumph suggests another complex, that of a lost cultural war.

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