Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Louis Malle shot the 75-minute documentary Humain, trop Humain (produced 1972, released 1974) at the end of a rare creative dry spell in his life - in between the fictional masterworks Souffle au cœur (1971) and Lacombe Lucien. Malle and his two-person crew (Jean-Claude Laureux and Etienne Becker) travel out to the Citroen auto plant in Brittany, France, cameras-in-tow, and shoot three tangentially-related sequences. In the first third of the picture, Malle observes the mechanical nature of the assembly line process, following the construction of an automobile from a flattened piece of metal to a finished product. He overlays choral music on the soundtrack, painting the step-by-step linearity of the events in a satirical light. In the second sequence, Malle and his crew travel to an automobile showroom, where customers babble on and on about nothing in particular, making banal small-talk for a seemingly endless period of time. And in the last third of the picture, Malle and co. return to the assembly line. Here, the director deliberately places an obscene emphasis on watching the assembly line workers toil, attempting in the process to physically exhaust the viewer with the repetitive, laborious onscreen movement of the men and the machinery. This film serves as an unofficial companion piece to the documentary Place de la Republique.