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When Christian Clavier can't stand the "Visitors"...
The character of "Jacquouille" from "The Visitors" was both a blessing and a curse for Christian Clavier. It boosted his career catapulting him as the King of French comedy and the heir of Louis De Funes but also derailed it toward the kind of performances that always reminded of "The Visitors" as if each character was a variation of Jacquouille or was channeling his modern 'nouveau riche' counterpart Jacquard.
In "Do Not Disturb", Clavier is a centerpiece of a screwball vaudeville-like mayhem that involves many declarations, revelations, celebration and plumbing situations that chose the wrong possible time to unfold all in once. Just when Michel, an upper class snob and fan of jazz found a rarity named "Me, Myself and I" from renowned artist Neil Youart, and cancel every possible appointment to offer himself one hour of quietness, he can't even get one tenth of it. This is the set-up of the comedy and let's face it, it's a situation we can all perfectly relate to and that could have inspired an endless chain of gags.
The problem is, as though as the set-up is promising, it also works as the film's pattern and you never got the feeling that it will try to take off above its premise. Things gets out of control and allows the film to be a little bit more than a zany comedy, and I can see how Patrice Leconte try to inject some 'commentary' on the relationships between neighbors and the poisoning selfishness of the world (as evidence by the self-centered record's title) but before raising intellectual brilliance, a movie has at least to provide required laughs.I wanted to laugh at Clavier's antics, at Carole Bouquet playing against type and emotionally vulnerable and neurotic spouse, at Portia de Rossi playing the Spanish maid, I wanted but most of the time, I felt myself starving for one little gag that wouldn't just rely on heavy accents, people yelling at each other or a house getting dirty or soaked.
The film was adapted from a successful play from by Florian Zeller and Simon Gray Michel was played by FabriceLuchini. Now, here's where it gets tricky, Luchini and Clavier couldn't be more different actors, in their own separate ways, they're equally funny, but while Clavier can play the sarcastic type and overkill it, there's something more sophisticated and restrained in Luchini. One of the point of Antoine is that he's a snobbish and arrogant guy who doesn't realize how condescending he is, when he takes Neil Youart (a totally fictional artist) as the epitome of genius, he's literally calling anyone an ignorant, had Luchini played him, I suspect his subtext would have been more in the line of "you don't know what you're missing",
Luchini can pass as a victim but Clavier is too cynical and sarcastic to let us feel any sympathy for him, yet he's still the most sympathetic character. He's sympathetic because we know what he loves, and people only gravitate around him to make his existence impossible, it's like the film is telling us that this guy doesn't deserve to have a break, but the truth is, there's no character who's likable enough you'd rather see him than Antoine listening to his jazz. So the idea is actually good, the play was probably better but the film features a bunch of unlikable characters that made the experience rather unpleasing. The wife annoyed me, the mistress was ridiculous, the son should go easy on Valium pills, the twist on the Portuguese worker could have worked if he was used in more scenes and don't get me started on the neighbor.
There were many good things in the film but they never fulfilled their potential, French cinema has proved to work on closed doors locations ("The Dinner Game", "The First Name" were many successful plays' adaptations) but Leconte seems to have lost his way with this one, like he did with the third opus of the "French Fried Vacation" series, seems like his tandem with Clavier doesn't work as it used to. Clavier made a far more successful movie that same year "Lord, What Did We Do Wrong", and it worked because he formed a duo with Chantal Lauby and she was the 'emotional' one and both were surrounded by far more sympathetic characters. Clavier is a comedic genius, but he can't carry a movie alone.
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