APRÈS VOUS ...
Antoine (Daniel Auteuil), Maitre d' at the classy Chez Jean brasserie in Paris, is on his way to his girlfriend Christine's (Marilyn Canto) one night, and on a short cut through the park finds a young man about to hang himself. He saves the lovelorn Louis (Jose Garcia), and even takes him home, caring and principled man that he is. He does all he can, even helps land Louis the job as sommelier at Chez Jean (a big ask considering Louis knows zero about wine) but Louis remains fixated with Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain), who dumped him. Antoine secretly tracks Blanche down at her florist shop, and as he manoeuvres a reconciliation, he finds himself smitten by Blanche himself, even as Blanche is on the verge of marrying Andre (Fabio Zenoni). This delicate situation is compounded by Christine, of course, and by his feelings of guilt.
Review by Louise Keller:
He just can't help being a do-gooder, and Daniel Auteuil's Antoine lives his life trying to fix everyone else's problems. Whether it is a customer at the restaurant who hasn't received his meal, a colleague who needs a hand, or a total stranger about to commit suicide, Antoine is on the case. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions and Antoine is well on the way. By contrast, José Garcia's Louis is a hopeless case. Totally lacking in self-confidence, when his girlfriend Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain) calls their relationship off, he is ready to end it all.
A delicious comedy of errors, Après Vous is a buddy movie about two opposites thrown together by guilt and circumstance who inadvertently change each other's lives and perspectives. Add the complication of a beautiful woman who is the object of desire for both men, and you have all the ingredients for a lively romp. Exploring the fine line between happiness and despair and being in charge of your life as opposed to allowing life to knock you around, the film skillfully plays with the fragility of our emotions.
Filled with funny situations that are often borderline farcical, director Pierre Salvadori, whose black comedy Wild Target remains a favourite, elegantly balances the ridiculous with the profound, as the two central characters impact on each others' lives. When we first meet Antoine, superficially he seems to have it all: a responsible job, respect from his colleagues and a happy relationship at home. Louis has none of these things, but as we get to know both men, we realise that neither circumstance has permanence. I love the scene when Antoine sets up Louis' interview for the position of sommelier at the restaurant. Anyone who enjoys playing charades will relate to the moment when Antoine is trying to help Louis correctly answer which food should best accompany a particular white wine. Hilarity ensues as Auteuil's desperate attempts at suggesting a lobster are misinterpreted for venison.
Roles become reversed as Louis gains confidence, while Antoine learns the meaning of love. All in the setting of a busy brasserie and a colourful flower shop. The joys of the film lie in the constantly shifting balance of emotions. At times the humour may be a bit stretched, taking the comedy a little further than the credible, but the performances are so delightful, I enjoyed the ride. Antoine and Louis become indebted to one another, but not for the reasons they expect. Après Vous will whet your appetite for life and laughter.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Pierre Salvadori revels in ironic, dry (and dark) comedy, as shown by Wild Target, which perhaps explains why Apres Vous ends up less like a Francois Veber-like comedy and more like a comic riff on guilt. The guilty party is Antoine, played by one of the great French actors of his generation, Daniel Auteuil. He feels guilty for having saved Louis, since Louis is so anguished at the loss of his love, Blanche. But it gets worse...his guilt, I mean. As his well-meaning efforts to find Blanche and reunite the lovers send him deeper and deeper into their lives and spinning out of his own - with girlfriend Christine having had enough of his excuses and absences - he finds himself deeply attracted to Blanche.
Meanwhile Blanche has moved on, if for no other reason than she can't bear to be alone. Her new man, Andrew (Fabio Zenoni) is a bit of a rascal, so she's vulnerable prey for Antoine's charm, warmth and sincerity.
Despite himself, Antoine falls in love, and can't bear to tell either Blanche that he's not an accidental shopper in her florist shop but a spy for Louis, nor Louis that he's fallen for the woman of Louis' life (and almost death). His guilt deepens, even as Louis seems to be making an effort to lift himself out of his depression at the prospect of reuniting with Blanche, as a remade man, thanks to Antoine. He's now selling expensive wines by the score and his newfound self confidence means he can walk under chandeliers without fear of them falling on him.
The film's comedic credentials lie in the anguish and pain of lost love, of suicidal depression and how these are handled. So far so good, but Salvadori treads a little too heavily with the comedy, and where the pathos should be foremost, he lets Louis mug a bit, so that overstatement overtakes the film's wry intentions.
The result is a grey comedy which should play either black or lighten up and play totally broad. It's stuck in between, neither hilarious nor quite moving enough. No disrespect to the actors, though, and there are many scenes that elicit chuckles and understanding smiles.
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APRÈS VOUS ... (M)
CAST: Daniel Auteuil, José Garcia, Sandrine Kiberlain, Maryline Canto, Michelè Moretti, Garance Clavel, Fabio Zenoni
PRODUCER: Philippe Martin
DIRECTOR: Pierre Salvadori
SCRIPT: Benoît Graffin, David Léotard, Pierre Salvadori (idea Danièle Dubroux)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gilles Henry
EDITOR: Isabelle Devinck
MUSIC: Camille Bazbaz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Yves Fournier
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill Films
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 16, 2004