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aka - After You
France 2003
Directed by
Pierre Salvadori
100 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Charles Vere
3.5 stars

Apres Vous

Synopsis: Antoine (Daniel Auteuil) is an impeccable maitre d'hôtel in a busy upmarket restaurant. One night after work, running to meet his girlfriend, he encounters Louis (José Garcia) attempting suicide. Always helpful, Antoine saves Louis and takes him to his place to take care of him. Louis is depressed and doesn't want to cope with his new unwanted life. Antoine, feeling responsible for him, gets him a job in his restaurant and attempts to find Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain), the heart of Louis' turmoil. Antoine will try to reunite them and in the process fall in love with the young woman.

This mainstream romantic comedy is raised above the ordinary by near perfect acting from the lead actors, and a fairly complex and witty mise en scène. As it unfolds, the well-written script develops the characters' relationships, the ménage a trois leads to many comical situations, which although almost farcical never descend into glibness or vulgarity.

Pierre Salvadori directs efficiently, never pretentiously, shaping his characters effortlessly within a convincing combination of intelligently-articulated set-ups. Arguably the pitch is a little too carefully inoffensive and the director can't help exploiting a few clichés, but overall, the script draws a satisfying balance between comedy and serious emotion in a cleverly developed scenario well reflected in the film's title with its simultaneous connotations of social niceties, self-abnegation and heated pursuit.

Daniel Auteuil, César-nominated for this role, is in many his films a rather ordinary presence. In Après Vous, he fits perfectly with the character, and gives an excellent understated performance. He is the 'normal guy', nice to everybody, hard-working, unable to say 'no' and considerate to a fault. José Garcia, known in France as a comedy actor, slips effortlessly into the character of Louis, convincingly portraying a depressed man slowly getting a grip on his life, a transformation which, however, being steeped in self-pity, is not without its funny moments. Sandrine Kiberlain, a sort-of French Tilda Swinton, is also convincing as the ethereal and lost Blanche although ultimately she is almost an appendage as the film concentrates on the relationship between the two men.

Salvadori deftly delivers a comedy about a suicidal man, a chronicle of despairing love, and a offbeat description of a modern couple although his characters are perhaps not as engaging as those of his earlier films, Les Apprentis with François Cluzet and Guillaume Depardieu, or Cible Emouvante with Jean Rochefort and Marie Trintignant. A special mention must go to the music, written by Camille Bazbaz, which beautifully shapes the movie with its uplifting mix of raga and chanson française.

This is not movie that will be hailed in years to come but its stylish direction and brilliant acting makes it a pleasurable experience. So, after you...




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