Temp (Temporal): Film Review
The inhuman reality of life in the lower echelons of the workplace in 21st-century Europe, rendered in all its tawdry awfulness in Catxo’s debut feature.
Youth unemployment in Spain and the rest of Europe is currently running at scary levels, a fact which has gone largely unnoticed by Spanish filmmakers. Temp aims to put that right. A vibrant, committed micro-budgeter from Jose Luis Lopez Gonzalez (artistic name: Catxo) that shows the impact of junk job contracts on a range of lives over a single working day, the film tackles some pretty horrendous subjects with a light touch, adding up to a slightly heightened, nicely judged and politically charged satire on how things actually are down on the lowest rung of the Euro employment ladder.
Though its intentions are sometimes better than its execution, and though it’s saying nothing at all that’s new, the film ironically doubles as a little homage to human resilience, and it’s this bubbly, feel-good tone that could generate festival interest.
The opening scene has cleaner Jennifer (Celia de Molina) being crushed by a falling elevator, an event never referred to throughout the rest of the film but whose shadow hangs over it as an indicator of the low value placed on human life that’s the film’s main target.
Amelia (Nuria Mencia), given to spouting threatening corporate speak -- “the company’s has limited patience” -- runs an employment agency, tellingly shot in grayed-out color that’s close to black and white: A wall poster meaninglessly proclaims “Don’t give up hope -- you yourself are success”. The different kinds of “success” that the agency offers are shown in the three interwoven storylines, which alternate with the blurring speed that befits one of Spain’s top ad directors. In this world, success is either selling potato chips in the street, selling vacuum cleaners in homes or working at a call center – all for practically no pay. As one character puts it, "My job is trying to find a job.”
When happy-go-lucky cellist Rosario (Maggie Civantos) turns up as Jennifer’s temp replacement to sell the chips, she encounters Maria Jose (Rocio Calvo), a foul-mouthed borderline psychopath who runs the operation from a run-down bar and who couldn’t care less why Jennifer hasn’t shown up for work. Rosario’s perpetual sense of optimism, even while she’s being thoroughly exploited, runs through the film like a beacon.
In the film’s most awkward sections, 54-year-old Alberto (Alfonso Torregrosa) turns up to a call center training day where he finds himself surrounded by gum-chewing, mini-skirt wearing 20-somethings like the fearsome Sara (Natalia de Molina). Already working for the center is disenchanted Melani (TV actress Melani Olivares, in Spain the best-known cast member) who will later dare to tell Amelia that she’s not happy about the working conditions (rendered as coming only slightly above those of factory-farmed chickens).
Scriptwriters Andres Arias and Pablo Caballero have a good ear for the dialogue of the streets and as Pedro Almodovar once did, ekes comedy from it. But the real comedy is supplied by the unnamed humanities student, played by the eccentric Adrian Lastra (a standout in Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’s Cousins). Using the powers of rhetoric to sell vacuum cleaners (“your old cleaner is deceiving you”), he is suddenly forced into a confrontation with brutal reality when he’s invited into the house of a domestic abuser, chillingly played by Luis Callejo, where he's forced to confront suffering of a whole different order.
The enormous cast is made up mostly of unknowns or semi-unknowns, but everyone throws themselves into it in the apparent conviction that what the film is saying is true, and needs to be said, for as long as it takes.
The fact that Catxo has an advertising background (indeed he seems to be shamelessly biting the hand that feeds him in his confident expose of the absurdities of marketing) doesn’t mean that there’s anything hollow or slick about Temp, which has "rough diamond" written all over it. Wisely, the script sidesteps all political sloganeering, soul searching and sentimentality, opting instead for a show-don't-tell approach that’s only occasionally really dark, but which still raises all kinds of disturbing questions about the way society is set up.
With one scene following quickly on the heels of the last, there’s never time for reflection: You need time and money for reflection, the script says, and these characters have neither. The engaging theme tune by Leiva, also playing a street musician, is crucial to the film’s more melancholy sequences.
Production: Blur Producciones, El Patio de la Higuera, Iconica
Cast: Nuria Mencia, Melani Olivares, Luis Callejo, Maggie Civantos, Violeta Perez, Alfonso Torregosa
Screenwriter: Andres Arias, Pablo Caballero
Producers: Catxo, Mario Fornies
Director of photography: Curro Ferreira
Music: Leiva, El Intruso
Sound: Antonio Marmol
Sales: Blur Producciones
No rating, 88 minutes