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Claus Mueller


Claus Mueller is filmfestivals.com  Senior New York Correspondent

He is based in New York where he covers the festival scene, professor at Hunter University, accredited member of the Foreign Press Center,  U.S. Department of State NY.


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Merci Patron! (Thanks Boss!), Francois Ruffin, France, 2015

This documentary is the French counterpart to Michael Moore’s 1989 Roger & Me in which Moore attempted to confront Roger Smith, the president of General Motors. Both Ruffin and Moore engage in an empirically based analysis of the consequences of turbo capitalism and the impact of the investment strategies of large corporations that result in local unemployment and the destruction of the social fabric of the communities where their factories are located. Ruffin, a left wing journalist, focuses on Bernard Arnault, who is the billionaire chairman and CEO of the luxury goods corporation LVMH and considered the richest French individual, with a fortune of over $37 billion. As in Moore’s film, the closing of production facilities left people who had been employed for decades impoverished and uprooted. Ruffin focuses on the impact of the loss of jobs after presenting some background information on the business practices of Bernard Arnault. Maximization of profit is the guiding rationale of Bernard Arnault without consideration of the human consequences. Ruffin shows how an enterprise is taken over by Arnault and, contrary to assurances given to workers, closed down and dismantled, resulting in thousands workers losing their jobs. Salesmen reveal that the merchandise handled is not produced in France as the labels state but in Eastern Europe. Arnault tries to escape French taxes by relocating to Belgium and engages in shady dealings in his attempt to take-over Hermes, the famous luxury product  maker.

Ruffin decides to engage in getting some relief for a couple, Jocelyne and Serge Klur, two blue collar workers who are barely able survive with the welfare benefits they receive after losing their jobs at a textile factory owned by LVMH. They live on the equivalent a few dollars a day. They have health problems and are in the process of losing their home. For Ruffin, Arnault is an ideal target. Arnault is an eminent captain of industry and represents various luxury brands like Moet, Vuitton and Hennessy. He frequently shows up in the press and likes to portrays himself as a philanthropist with acts like his setting up an expensive art facility, the Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum, and is clearly sensitive to how the public responds to him.

With dyed blond hair Ruffin goes undercover as the son of the Klurs and coaches them on how to interact with LVMH representatives. They hope to get $40,000 from the company and minimum wage work for Serge Klur. With hidden cameras, Ruffin records the meeting he and the Klurs have with an LVHM executive. They let him know that a worker’s delegation will disrupt the next shareholder meeting of LVHM, thus mounting an extortion operation. Ruffin and the Klurs succeed in conveying to the LVHM executives that the company faces a real public relation disaster unless the Klurs receive compensation and the job placement. To their surprise LVHM gives in. Like Moore’s inability to get a meeting with Roger Smith, Francois Ruffin is never able to encounter Bernard Arnault.

Produced on a small budget of about $200,000.00 with crowd founding and Ruffin’s own money Merci Patron! has become an audience hit in France attracting more than 260,000 people in the first six weeks.

Claus Mueller filmexchange@gmail.com

 

 

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