The Closet; Loose Cannons

  • Le Placard (The Closet), 5/31/15 (Sun)
  • Mine Viganti (Loose Cannons), 6/6/15 (Sat)

A mention in a newspaper column prompted me to look for The Closet. I tried to buy a download on Amazon and Apple, but they made it so difficult that I just watched it on YouTube.

An accountant in a large company is so dull as to be almost invisible. He is ignored by his colleagues, and neither his ex-wife nor his teenage son will return his calls. Furthermore, he overhears talk that he is going to be axed by the firm. Depressed and lonely, he contemplates jumping off his building. A neighbor aims to help by concocting a scheme: he anonymously mails the company a doctored image of the guy in a leather suit with his hands all over another guy, strongly implying that he is gay. That apparent revelation makes it impossible for the company to fire him, and more than that, makes him suddenly an object of fascination for the entire firm. 

His co-workers are now convinced that they knew it all along, and the company orders everyone to be ultra-sensitive – not least the big macho guy (a priceless Gerard Depardieu) who has a penchant for casual off-color “faggot” jokes. The newly gay guy is not entirely comfortable with all this, complaining that he’s come out of a closet he was never in. He is especially bothered when his son gets caught up in the same deceit, having caught his father on television on the company’s gay pride float.

His initial impulse to tell the truth, though, fades away as his son expresses respect for him for the first time. Similarly, as people cater to him, he increasingly gains confidence, and even the hot secretary comes on to him. By the end, he is a new man.

The movie gets lost along the way in several underdeveloped subplots, but one of those is actually funnier than the plot: Gerard’s co-workers, having a bit of fun, tell him that his job is on the line if he doesn’t treat the supposedly outed guy better. The paranoid Gerard, not the brightest guy around, does everything he can to ingratiate himself to his colleague. He joins him for lunch, makes desperate attempts at small talk (such as how the after-game showers are the best part of rugby), and visits him at home bearing chocolates when he’s sick. When he buys a pink sweater as a birthday gift, his wife thinks he’s having an affair (one of those ultimately aimless subplots), but he can only obsess whether the guy really likes him or not, even worrying that he’s not wearing the sweater. Gerard is hilarious at every step of the way, and his portrayal brings the movie to a whole different level. The main guy and his secretary are both fine, but fine doesn’t compare with brilliant.

The film fortunately is not a sentimental plea to go out and love gays; that’s implicit in the story (well, a bit more explicit with the next-door-neighbor who was fired for being gay, a relatively underplayed point), but the writer is mainly using the gay angle to drive the drama. In that sense it recalls La Cage Aux Folles – which comes as no surprise, since the writer/director turns out to be the same. I dread the inevitable American remake, which is sure to veer off into poor-put-upon-gay-people territory, but this one was very much worth watching.

A friend somehow read about Loose Cannons, an old Italian comedy, and having just seen a gay-themed French film, I figured I might as well see what the Italians had to say. A boy, returning to his village from his studies in Rome, confides to his older brother that he is gay and is planning to tell the whole family that night. He knows that the ensuing ruckus will allow him to quit his obligation to his father’s pasta factory and become a writer. Unfortunately at dinner that night, the brother beats him to it – he comes out to the family himself. While everyone else is simply speechless, the father explodes in fury and throws him out of the house, then promptly has a heart attack that puts him on death’s bed. The younger brother is now afraid that exposing another family fruit would kill his father for sure, and ends up taking over the hated supervisory position from his brother in the factory. Various complications ensue, including a growing friendship with a female worker and a visit from the guy’s boyfriend and three queenie friends who do their best to look straight. In the end, it is only after the grandmother dies (of gorging on sweets – she’s diabetic) that all is resolved at the funeral.

The film was a string of clichés, both in characterizations – intolerant father, loonie aunt, wise grandmother (complete with meaningful aphorisms), shrewish mother, etc. – and situations – heart attack (the father not forgetting to grab the tablecloth and pull over the dishes as he slides off the chair), effeminate gays doing a dance routine, boy’s tearful apology to his boyfriend for ignoring him, and so forth. Time has way overtaken this movie. Sentiment, or over-sentiment, does not wear well. I’d much rather have the sheer fun of La Cage Aux Folles or The Closet, where the gayness is just a plot point. Maybe that’s something only the French can pull off.

In any case, the film was not helped by the slow pacing. The dream sequences involving the grandmother’s wedding (I think) might have been interesting if I could have figured it out. I was not impressed by this film. The performances were good, for what it’s worth, especially the grandmother and father. Must remember to avoid Italian gay-themed films.

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