Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Closet

(Le Placard, France, 2001)

A delightful little soufflé of a French farce, that knows how to add comic complications and when to get off the stage. It’s only 84 minutes long, which is about right for something like this. Daniel Auteuil is Pignon, a nebbishy, boring office worker who is about to get fired because, basically, he’s dull. A cipher. His new neighbor is a retired industrial psychologist and knows a great deal about workplace politics, and he comes up with a scheme to make people believe Pignon is gay. The idea is, straight, he’s a schmuck; gay, he’d be interesting. And sure enough. Add in that he works in a condom factory, and 90% of their clientele are gay, and suddenly you have the element of political correctness, and the fear that you’ll be seen as prejudiced. All these things are played wonderfully, especially by Gérard Depardieu, a gay-hating asshole who suddenly has to clean up his act. The comic complications are never-ending.

It’s odd, there was recently a celluloid turd titled I Now Pronounce you Chuck and Larry that had some of the same themes, but it was crude and ugly and stupid and crass. The French are the ones to do something like this. I must mention the look of the film. There was something of those old Rock Hudson/Doris Day screwball romances, in the lighting and the saturated color that I think must have been deliberate. And one word about the sets. This is the third or fourth European film I’ve seen recently set in a business environment that I can only describe as uber-Bauhaus. Ghastly rooms made of glass, stainless steel, and brushed aluminum, chairs not made for sitting, harsh light. You could take out an appendix in these rooms, or interrogate a terrorist. Are French and Italian offices really like this? Somebody should inform the UN Human Rights Commission. Having to work in a place like that is cruel and inhumane.