A surprisingly autumnal first feature for a writer-director still under 40, Sebastien Pilote’s quiet character study “The Salesman” might be a decades-later sequel to such ’70s Canadian classics as “Goin Down the Road” and “Paperback Hero,” showing their rambunctious protags long settled into the dying-small-town life they’d planned to escape. Melancholy piece is a commercial nonstarter, but fest play and homefront awards could spur niche DVD and quality broadcast sales offshore.
Breezy, fatherly Marcel Levesque (Gilbert Sicotte) is a widowed car salesman who prides himself on remembering the details of every customer he’s ever had. They’re few these days, as his Quebec burg’s factory is on strike against threatened permanent closure. He dotes on his daughter (Nathalie Cavezzali), a single mom, and her son(Jeremy Tessier), but while she urges retirement, he insists, “As long as I can work, I’ll work.” A tragedy portended at the pic’s start shakes even this fragile raison d’etre, but Pilote and his protag refuse to give in to despair. Impeccably acted, poignant and nuanced, assured feature gets significant assists from Michel La Veaux’s wintry lensing and a score rooted in traditional Quebecois folk sounds.