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Après Vous

Daniel Auteuil is one of the most acclaimed French actors of his generation. He's best-known on these shores for prestige productions like Jean de Florette and Queen Margot. But here the fallacy of foreign films raises its head: Only the most prestigious and serious art films generally get picked up for American release. For every artful effort like The Girl on the Bridge, then there may be two or three titles that never make it over here. This is a long way of saying that if Après Vous (2003) feels like a career low for Auteuil, that may only be because we've been spared some even more extreme nadirs. Or maybe it's just that old bugaboo about comedy not translating as well as drama. Either way, the picture is something of an embarrassment, reminiscent of nothing so much as a latter-day (i.e. tamed-down) Farrelly Brothers movie dubbed into French. Auteuil plays Antoine, the successful, competent head waiter at a fancy Parisian restaurant. One night, walking home through a park, he interrupts the suicide attempt of Louis (Jose Garcia), the saddest of sacks, who's distraught because his girlfriend has dumped him. For no sufficiently explained reason, Antoine then feels responsible for the dorky Louis, taking him home for dinner, and then helping him retrieve a mailed suicide note before his grandmother can read it. But even that's not enough to sate Antoine's Samaritan urges, and he decides to reunite Louis with his estranged lover. She turns out to be a lovely, well-dressed florist named Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain), a sharp blond contrast to Antoine's inadvertent fiancée Chrisinte (Marilyne Canto). Christine is depicted as a shrewish spoilsport for not indulging Antoine's ridiculous obsession, but she's actually the most sensible person in the film. As Louis, hired on at the restaurant thanks to Antoine, continues to exhibit disturbingly childlike behavior, Blanche seems more and more appealing. Despite a few amusing set pieces, the cartoonish quality of Après Vous wears out its welcome quickly. It's seeming more and more as if not only French action films, but comedies as well, have been infected by the Hollywood pandemic. Auteuil's owlish visage has been compared to Robert De Niro in the past, and this movie seems very much like Analyze This: an attempt by a once-serious leading man to cash in by making silly for the camera. One pleasant footnote: The soundtrack of French pop songs is catchy, even if the lyrics aren't subtitled. Paramount's DVD of Après Vous offers a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1), and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio allows for a full appreciation of the aforementioned tunes. Keep-case.
—Marc Mohan

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