The Nothing Factory Screen 10 articles

The Nothing Factory


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  • An occasionally inspired, but often trying three-hour-long, genre-hopping patchwork of social-realist cinema. While such a span feels like a respectful reflection of the complexity of the issues it explores, it also allows the film to come into and out of focus so often that it dulls engagement long before an unexpected musical number in the last half-hour briefly perks it up again.

  • Late in The Nothing Factory, one character asks “what now?”. In its own cerebral, didactic, unwieldy way, the film offers discourse and dialectics, but no clear pathway out of the slump. It is a film that is easier to admire for the scope of its ambition than it is to necessarily enjoy. Perhaps the best that can be said is that it is a conversation starter in troubled times, for audiences prepared to go the distance with it.

  • An energetic ensemble piece from documentarist Pinho, making his fiction debut, The Nothing Factory echoes certain 60s-70s French screen examinations of labour issues (Godard’s Tout va bien being the most celebrated) but it’s very much its own thing, intelligent and inventive if somewhat ragged round the edges.

  • The scope of the canvas is bold indeed, at once myopic in its resolute attention to these few people in this one particular and small-scale crisis, and expansive in its direct acknowledgement of this story and its participants as a by no means rare example of the pernicious, corrosive effect of capitalism’s endless late stage on individual human beings.

  • Widening the lens to take in the ills of an entire economic system, Pedro Pinho’s The Nothing Factory is the latest cinematic response to Portugal’s financial crisis... The presence of a shadowy character on the fringes—a kind of labor theorist or crisis-chasing agitator—allows for some pointed Marxist musings, and the three-hour running time contains manifold surprises and pleasures, notably a few bursts of self-reflexive song-and-dance and the loveliest of nods to Straub-Huillet’s Sicilia!.

  • While some shifts are more graceful than others and the wackier moments can appear somewhat strained, Pinho’s film feels as unusual and unpredictable as its final reel message, particularly in this Riviera setting: in a world of restless uncertainty, continuing to apply the same old categories won’t get you anywhere.

  • A fascinating curio that could be thought of, in a way, as a very protracted version of one of Miguel Gomes' individual tales from Arabian Nights, Pinho's debut fiction feature seems a bit over-extended at times, intent of examining its basic problems from every conceivable angle. However once you're one its wavelength, and willing to concede that the labor process is only as cinematic as the time we give it to develop, The Nothing Factory drifts casually by like your favorite college seminar.

  • Like Miguel Gomes’s 6-hour Arabian Nights (but with far more consistent success), there seems to be the assumption that one way to fight the brutality of austerity is through “impractical” excess, whether of duration or otherwise. I _could_ say that the film is a little overlong... but that itself internalizes the logic of capitalism in dismissing anything that isn’t necessary, so let’s instead say there’s plenty of surplus value here.

  • There is something more to recommend of The Nothing Factory, set during the lassitude of a labor dispute at an elevator factory outside of Lisbon. It at least tosses off a lot of ideas, most of these regarding labor in a post-work society, during its three-plus hour runtime—though these ideas seem to decorate the film’s surface rather than act as a part of its superstructure.

  • A long, detailed report on the dynamics and tactics involved in the worker response to the impending liquidation of an elevator factory outside of Lisbon, Pinho’s film is remarkable for the breadth of its attention.

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