Oscar snub for Dardenne brothers for fourth time

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Another Oscar season, another snub for the Dardenne brothers.

Their Two Days, One Night, Belgium's submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, has won various festival and critics' awards. It also garnered an European Film Award this month for Marion Cotillard's taut performance as a factory worker whose job is in jeopardy.

However, the drama did not make the cut for the Oscar shortlist - the fourth time that Luc Dardenne, 60, and his brother Jean-Pierre, 63, two of the most acclaimed European film-makers, have been passed over by Hollywood.

In Two Days, One Night, which opened on Wednesday, Cotillard plays Sandra, who has been fired from her assembly line job in a small solar panel plant, but has been given a tiny ray of hope: If she can persuade a majority of her fellow workers to forgo the bonus they are to receive upon her dismissal, she will be reinstated. Over a frantic weekend, she visits her co-workers at home or at play, and encounters the most diverse of responses.

Luc said: "We were working on another screenplay, but then, with the repercussions of the economic crisis that came in 2008, but really started to show up in 2011 and 2012, there were industries that started to shut down, not just in our region, but also in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, all over Europe.

"That's when we said to ourselves, 'It's timely to do this film now'."

In October, they visited to talk about the film, which had its United States premiere at the New York Film Festival and had already been chosen as Belgium's Oscar entry.

You're on record as having said you wanted to make this movie for at least a decade. Why?

Jean-Pierre: Ten years ago or so, there was a book edited by Pierre Bourdieu, a series of sociological studies called The Weight Of The World: Social Suffering In Contemporary Society. The book had probably 15 case studies and 15 analyses, and one of these stories was a worker cast aside because of the influence of managers, who got the other workers to agree to push him aside. This worker was probably a little less productive at his job and therefore that team was never getting its bonuses.

Luc and I talked about this story numerous times and we just never could get it off the ground. Until other factors tied into it. So it's that story, which has to do with a lack of solidarity, that got us going.

Part of your usual process is to work with a cast that doesn't have big international names in it. This time, though, Cotillard is a major figure.

Jean-Pierre: It's true, at the start, we did not want to work with a star. We'd seen her in a number of movies, but said we have to meet her. And we had a great excuse: we were co-producers of (her 2012 drama) Rust And Bone, so we went to the set, and Luc and I said, "If we feel a connection, then we'll say to her, 'We'd like to work with you'." And that was the case. It was cinematic love at first sight. For both of us.

You portray a very European situation in this film. What kind of impact do you think it will have in the United States, where the situation for workers may be even worse?

Jean-Pierre: We all live in the same world and that's a world in which everyone is pitted against one another constantly. Our society exacerbates the feeling of competition we have with one another. It's always, "You have to be the best, you have to be the strongest".

Luc: Yes, and Sandra's problem is not just losing her job because worse than losing your job is to become isolated, when nobody comes to see you, and you lose your connection with others. That's a big part of what her issue is. The real thing today is solitude.

You've had a really good record at Cannes, but with the Oscars, not so much. Have you ever thought about why that might be?

Jean-Pierre: We don't really know the whole Oscar process, but it's starting to be more familiar. But we hope that, movie after movie, there is going to be a click. I prefer to have that perspective of hope.

 
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