Nouvelle Comedie de writer/director Francis Verber is brilliantly
Placard/The Closet is a French film complete with subtitles,
which, admittedly, usually sends me into a fear and loathing
equal only to dear Napoleon at news of his exile. Oh-oh, another
Fellini-esque two hours of berets and chain smoking mumblers.
Argh! But, within moments The Closet won me over. Any language
barrier I had feared would ruin the experience dissipated as
the superb cast drew us all into their clever tale.
well crafted characters, played by a string of well know French
actors including; Daniel Auteuil, Thierry Lhermitte, Michèle
Laroque, Michel Aumont, Jean Rochefort and acting behemoth (in
more ways then one) Gerard Depardidiadoodoo, did one hell of
a job in this farcical treat directed and written by an expert
at gay-laced closet opening films, Francis Verber.
Verber has turned his visceral eye towards the workplace. How
the preconceived notions we draw of people are often completely
off base. But, they are what we see them to be.
With this apparent knowledge of people's nature, he magically
plays on the psychology of reaction to rumor. Guilty till proven
innocent isn't it?
Pignon (perpetually brilliant Daniel Auteuil) is a guy with
no hobby, no lover, and or even a microscopic grain of personality.
I believe his wife left him for fear of death by extreme boredom.
His teenage son avoids him as if his Pignon's French smooches
on his cheek will leave herpes sores, and he's just over heard
he's being fired from his job of twenty years. A job that is
really the focus of his existence at this point. Things just
aren't good for the man. He should just le jump to his pitiful
death right? It's not like anyone would notice?
there's a better solution. Pignon's new neighbor Belone (Michel
Aumont) has a revolutionary ploy that will guarantee Pignon's
mean old boss will think twice about the impending axing. It's
easy as purchasing a few Streisand albums, doning ass-open lederhosen
and joining the Nathan Lane fan club. A simple change of his
sexuality and viola' Pignon will be able to keep his job!
Pignon is to pretend to be a gay male. He'll be prancing out
of "the closet" he never went into! The thinking is
the boss would be too afraid of the publicty or worse, a lawsuit
if word got out Pignon was fired because he's gay. After all
Pignon works at a condom plan which sells to a large gay client
bully and all around man-brute Felix (Gerard "300 pounds
yet, still mysteriously, I am sexy, no?" Depardieu) is
living the homophobes returning nightmare...He is ordered by
his superiors to not just be nice to Pignon, but to court him...befriend
him...Or he himself, may lose his job. They must keep Pignon!
Depardieu glides thru the Felix role. His eyes and mannerisms
perfect. Admittedly, he can do no wrong in my eyes...even his
decision to Marlon Brando his twilight years.
female lead Mlle. Bertrand, Played by a charming Michele Laroque,
is at once the epitome of class and elegance as she handles
her comic parts with a Lucille Ball-like comic's timing. Bravo.
Mlle. Betrand is not so easily fooled by Pignon's "outing."
She's determined to get to the truth...even if it takes wine
and Lo-mein to do it! A woman's secret weapons...
co-workers are not so much shocked as excited to have something
to talk about in their drone little lives. Cleverly executed
the film shows how perception is not always what it seems. How
easily we are lead by our assumptions, and how nonchalant we
switch our views and opinions on cue from others. Pignon was
a dull, invisible chap until he is outed by malicious intent
photos of him in leather gear with a boy-toy. The office co-workers
barely noticed him before or were quick give him a verbal bashing.
Now he is an enigma. The most popular man at the plant.
Closet is not a high brow French art house film where you need
a black beret, a perpetually lit cigarette and the protein of
a slab of brie to enjoy the story. It's simply a charming well
paced comedy that lightly sweeps you up and glides you pleasantly
through to the end.
can't wait to see Hollywood's version when they purchase writer/director
Veber's script a' la The Birdcage and "Americanize it."
Obviously, it's in Le Pacard's crossover future. Hmm, perhaps
cast John Cusack as Pignon, Kevin Spacey as Felix, James Cromwell
as the company president and Kate Beckinsale as Ms. Betrand?
Sadly, that will be the only way a mass audience will experience
this clever "little" movie.
get all homophobic when you read elsewhere about its being a
gay & lesbian film. This is not entirely true. Sure there
's a gay character but this is no La Cage. It's a hetero comedy
with a flamboyant edge. Modern and brilliant in its cynicism
of human nature. And in any category it's one you should get
out and see.
Recommendation: Lo-mein from Le Take out and a nice red
wine, perhaps a Merlot?
Daniel Auteuil, Gerard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte, Michele
Laroque, Michel Aumont, and Jean Rochefort
by: Francis Verber