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CLOSET, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Francois Pignon (Daniel Auteuil) is an accountant at a condom factory and about to be fired by the macho head of personnel, Felix Santioni (Gerard Depardieu). Seen as a boring zero, he has been pining for his wife (Alexandra Vandernoot) who left him two years earlier with their son Franck (Stanislas Crevillen). His new neighbour, Belone (Michel Aumont) devises a plan: Pignon will be revealed to be gay, averting the sack for fear of negative customer reaction. The plan succeeds, but it has numerous unexpected and unintended consequences.

Francis Veber’s writing is as inventive and as observant as it is funny, and while not quite as howlingly funny as The Dinner Game, The Closet is close. Veber lets us see the machinery of the comedy, and this gives him elbow room for character and story development. The most satisfying aspect of The Closet is that he keeps his cast in check, playing more to the dramatic essence of the script than to the comedic. Of course, this does not prevent certain enlargements, especially where Gerard Depardieu’s Felix is concerned. Felix has to morph from homophobic, sexist, racist rugby coach to unstable sensitive new age man, but Depardieu is the right man for the job. Auteuil, in a rare comedic outing, is terrific in the challenging role of a rather bland character who only opens up at the end. (He plays Francois Pignon – the same name as Veber’s subject of ridicule in The Dinner Game.)The entire cast works splendidly to propel Veber’s wicked and astute social observations. Perceptions are all important in this world, and often have greater impact than the reality. With that snugly tucked into the screenplay, Veber invites us to laugh at ourselves as he whisks off our clothes. It’s a good laugh with plenty of grit as well.
Andrew L. Urban

Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Dépardieu, Thierry L'Hermitte in a Francis Veber comedy - that in itself is enough to entice you into The Closet. If you saw The Dinner Game (Le diner de cons), there is no doubt you will rush to this one; if you missed The Dinner Game, do yourself a favour and hire it on VHS or DVD. It is one French farce that I guarantee you will never forget. Needless to say, it's a hard act to follow. And while The Closet is not quite the film of the former, it is nonetheless a delightful farcical interlude, crafted by an experienced master of comedy. The situation, the setup, the execution, and zat cast with plenty of je ne sais quoi - it is indeed delectable in more ways than one. Weber's script is as rich and as smooth as thick, golden honey. And equally delicious. Much of the enjoyment is to do with the juxtaposition of sequences and events that make this kind of comedy so textured. Who else could make radio news items about disasters (deaths, kidnaps) hilariously funny (and not in bad taste), after the protagonist makes a failed suicide bid. A little like a superb meal, all the ingredients are laid out clearly, and then - it's a rollercoaster ride of hilarity resulting from the most complex of human emotions. The lines are great ('Flattery's a no no for depressives'), and the performances are simply magic. Auteuil as dull Pignon whose boring life of monotony is turned upside down, is wonderful. The victim, the underdog and the object of ridicule for whom the balance of life changes, Auteuil makes Pignon so real, that by the end of the film, I felt like cheering. Thierry Lhermitte and Michel Aumont are superb, and as for Dépardieu, you will need to see his macho gay-bashing Felix who becomes a blubbering pussy, for yourself. It's a treat to watch these masters at work. And speaking of pussies, there's a cute little miouwing ball of fluff, around whom there is also a twist. Clever filmmaking includes its audience in the gag, and we are part of the whole enjoyable process. Made with a light touch and played very straight, The Closet is uplifting, genuinely hilarious entertainment. You gotta come out for this one.
Louise Keller

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

THIERRY L'HERMITTE interview by Andrew L. Urban

THE CLOSET (M)
[Le Placard]
(France)

CAST: Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Dépardieu, Michele Laroque, Thierry L’Hermitte, Michel Aumont, Alexandra Vandernoot, Stanislas Crevillen, Jean Rochfort

PRODUCER: Alain Poiré

DIRECTOR: Francis Veber

SCRIPT: Francis Veber

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Luciano Tovoli

EDITOR: Georges Klotz

MUSIC: Vladimir Cosma

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugues Tissander

RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 20, 2001 (Advance screenings from Dec 14)

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: AV Channel

VIDEO RELEASE: June 26, 2002







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