Hot Docs 2014 Review: Joy of Man’s Desiring



A cinematic essay looking at the routines and rhythms in factories. Workers toil away doing repetitive tasks with the machinery while taking some time to contemplate about how much of their lives they commit to working in these factories.

Denis Côté (CarcassesBestiaire) uses a mix of observational cinema and dramatizations to create a very interesting commentary about the life in factories. Much of Joy of Man’s Desiring is spent showing various factory machinery in action. While this may sound boring, the action is framed and edited in such a way that it is quite compelling to look at.

Joy of Man’s Desiring utilizes many dramatized elements to help give the film’s thesis as a cinematic essay. For instance, the film begins with a female worker seductively looking over her shoulder and reciting, what can be interpreted as, a love letter to her machine. This is supported later on by the same women commenting about how she worked on the same machine for three years and how it’s “her machine now.” These dramatizations add substance and commentary to what would otherwise merely be a “fly on the wall” depiction of factory life.

Is Joy of Man's Desiring essential festival viewing?

This is most definitely worth seeing. Joy of Man’s Desiring is very compelling from start to finish, as it provides a visual commentary of factory life.

Joy of Man's Desiring screening times

Joy of Man's Desiring gallery

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Sean Kelly

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants). Sean has been writing his blog Sean Kelly on Movies since 2004 and has also contributed his writing for MONDOmagazine and thesubstream.

5 thoughts on “Hot Docs 2014 Review: Joy of Man’s Desiring”

  1. The “routines and rythyms” comment was intriguing giving me the impression that it is an art piece. Was there any support for the r/r in the pace of dialog and/or interspersal of human story in the continuum of machinery? I think that your first impression was inciteful, I’m just wondering if there was anything more to explore.

  2. I would suggest anyone thinking of seeing this film take a couple of minutes reading a few other informed reviews that can be found on the internet and even do yourself a favor and watch the trailer that can be found on youtube. The majority of the dialogue that exists in this film is scripted and furthermore most of the workers movements (or lack of) are often scripted. How HotDocs was able to classify this as a documentary is beyond me.

    1. Hi Brendan,
      Thanks so much for your comment. Were you put off by the doc’s scripted nature?

      I personally think Sean did a great job at reviewing some of the more intriguing aspects of the documentary, particularly its style. While this kind of storytelling is unconventional for many documentaries, I personally don’t think it should exclude it from the genre. Yes it might be staged, but there are many documentaries that have staged elements to them. I haven’t seen Joy of Man’s Desiring as of yet, but this discussion and review has piqued my interest!

      We hope you enjoyed the festival.

    2. Please note the use of the words “dramatized elements” in my review. I was well-aware that they were scripted (and it even says so in the film’s press kit). However, that didn’t make the film any less of a documentary, albeit one that is more a cinematic essay than a slice of life.

      Also, make note that there is a very fine line between what’s real and what’s not in documentaries. A film might appear like it’s a representation of real life, but more often or not the scenes seen in a documentary are either set-up for the filmmaker and/or manipulated in the editing.

    3. If you want to truly question Hot Docs selections, question the inclusion of semi-fictional “pseduo docs” like Searching for Bill and Fire-Followers.

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