January 3, 2002 -- "Le Placard" (The Closet) is a funny tale of mistaken sexual identity. This one-joke movie manages so many imaginative wrinkles that it successfully extends the joke into a feature length film.
François Pignon (played by Daniel Auteuil of "Sade") learns he is about to be fired from an accounting job he has held for 20 years at a company that makes condoms. Depressed, he goes home to contemplate his fate. His next door neighbor, Belone (Michel Aumont of "Salsa") has an idea how to save his job. Belone arranges to have a fake photograph made of Pignon which makes it appear that Pignon is a homosexual. The photograph is mailed to the company where Pignon works. The scheme works brilliantly, the company is afraid to fire Pignon because it might look like sexual harrassment. The company's gay customers would be offended.
Pignon keeps his job, but the scheme has all sorts of unintended consequences. Pignon had always been kind of invisible, but now people take notice of him, including his boss, the lovely Mlle Bertrand (played by Michèle Laroque. She suspects the photo is a fake and tries to seduce Pignon to see if he is really gay. Pignon and Belone then are forced to cook up an inventive strategy to counter her advances.
At the same time, the head of the personnel department, Félix Santini (Gérard Depardieu of "102 Dalmations") becomes the unknowing victim of a scheme by some of his friends. They convince Santini that he has to become friends with Pignon in order to avoid being fired for his anti-gay remarks. Santini tries to become Pignon's friend, but Pignon rebuffs Santini's advances. Santini becomes more and more desperate.
The situation with Mlle Bertrand and Santini leads to a comedy of errors which gets more and more out of control. At the same time, Pignon's ex-wife and son, who had ignored him for years, begin to take notice of him because of all the commotion. All of the relationships in Pignon's life are being drastically altered. In addition to a number of funny scenes in the film, there is also a significant development in Pignon's character. He becomes more assertive and he comes to have a new understanding about his family relationships. It is a life-affirming story.
The story is a bit uneven and it requires a big suspension of disbelief to accept it, but the film is an effective light comedy. Daniel Auteuil does a fine job in the lead role of François Pignon. Michel Aumont's performance as Pignon's neighbor is subtle and effective. Gérard Depardieu's performance is also quite effective as he is driven more and more crazy by the whole situation. This film rates a B.
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