Subject, screenplay and direction:
EFVE, Gaumont, Le Studio Canal+, TF1 Films Productions
Sergio Di Stefano
François Pignon, works in the accounts department of a factory producing rubber products, in particular, condoms and he’s risking the sack. A neighbour, an ex industry psychologist, after having prevented him from jumping out of the window advises him to follow a strategy to avoid losing his job: pretend to be gay.
Throwing a gay out of a condom factory would mean having “every gay movement on our backs”, it would cause an abrupt decrease in sales as well as trade union problems: in other words it would create too many difficulties.
When Pignon expresses some doubts that, not being an actor, he won’t be able to keep up the role of a homosexual, the therapist clearly expresses the sense of the film: stay the shy discreet person they’ve known for years; what will change is how they perceive you”.
What is Pignon’s problem? Everyone considers him to be average, insignificant: in the office Félix Santini, head of personnel, classifies him as a jerk, his wife left him because he’s a bore, the reason for which also his seventeen year old son avoids visiting him, his two female colleagues who work with him treat him politely but they consider him rather boring albeit an honest worker. In other words, no one cares about poor Pignon.
The beginning of the film is emblematic: all employees are reunited outside the factory for the company photo; Pignon is out of shot, and the photographer, in speaking to him, calls him “the one with the red tie”. After several tries Pignon moves aside and gives up appearing in the photo.
Thus we’re immediately driven to laugh at him, to pity him, to consider him a modest little man: we see him exactly as others see him. But once word spreads that he’s gay we become accomplices: we know the truth and watch the reactions of the various characters interacting with him.
And this is where we see the capability of the dialogist and of the dubbing director: the many “analysed” characters have directly corresponding different manners of speech, principal expressions of certain characters and actors-dubbers who couldn’t have adapted better to the actors-faces.
So we read on the first page of our Review; “dubbing worthy of note is the dubbing which you don’t notice” « Il doppiaggio degno di nota è quello che non si nota». We have a perfect example with this film.
Let’s analyse the various characters:
Michel Aumont is Belone, the neighbour; an elderly man whom we later discover to be gay, who helps Pignon liberate himself from the mediocrity in which he is convinced he finds himself. He addresses Pignon always with the formal “Lei” form, he’s affectionate even when he’s decisive, he’s calm, never aggressive; he’s the wise man of the film, a sort of guardian angel who appears in the moment of need and who will accompany his protegé in his maturation process.
Gérard Depardieu is Félix Santini, head of personnel of the company: an uncouth man, the rugby team trainer, a no nonsense homophobic macho type, who hates gays.
During the meeting with the Director in which the decision is taken not to sack Pignon any more, Santini expresses himself in a vulgar manner in order to render things less dramatic (so he says) but he’s soon silenced. He comes out of the meeting like a dog with its tail between its legs and becomes the target of other colleagues who encourage him (to make him “evolve” as a person”, but it’s a joke) to change his attitude with regards to Pignon so as not to risk the sack himself.
Why try to improve and change him? Because Santini is a narrow-minded man. During rugby training he is very vulgar: «Chi in campo è una schiappa dà via la chiappa», (you’re a bunch of sissies), “watch out for those butts”, “push you fakers” (checcacce di merda). His determination to offend gays becomes the reason for which he is considered gay but repressed so that: «Ti credono un diverso per il tuo odio per i diversi; frequentando un diverso tu dimostri che non sei un diverso. È elementare». (“you hate gays cos you’re a latent one” “if they call you gay cause you hate gays, hang out with one to show you’re not gay”). The rhythm with which Guillaume, head of public relations, says this line is perfect and a cliché, also considering Santini’s reaction («Puoi ripeterlo più lentamente?») (say that slower?) becomes an exhilarating joke.
The result of this joke will be that Santini, finally no longer repressed, will fall in love with Pignon.
Perhaps there’s no need to say that, Dépardieu, as usual, is brilliant; and we appreciate him also because his capability is perfectly enhanced and supported by the actor who lends him his voice.
Jean Rochefort is Kopel, the Director of the company. Respected, a little funny, almost effeminate when saying «Brutto frocio!» (faggot) when he feels blackmailed by Pignon, too polite, and therefore comical, in calling him «Pignoncino». After having assisted the amorous developments of Pignon with Doctor Bertrand, with charm exclaims: «Mi pongo degli interrogativi sulla sessualità del signor Pignon». (I’m confused about Mr. Pignon’s sexuality). The way in which the dubber renders the facial expression is a work of art.
Michèle Laroque is Dr. Bertrand, Pignon’s immediate boss. Beautiful, refined, intelligent, ironic, immediately understands that Pignon is faking; admits to not having ever taken him seriously. Laughs at the mad ideas of the other worker (pour coffee over him so that he has to take his shirt off to see if he has the tattoo of the photo on his arm), laughs at her considerations:
«Ti guarda di sguincio, con l’occhio tondo, come i piccioni». (He looks at you sideways, round-eyed, like a pigeon)
«Sono checche i piccioni?». (are pigeons gay?)
Bertrand speaks a nice Italian and even uses the remote past tense.
Thierry Lhermitte is Guillaume, of whom I have already spoken. His character is ironic, but not wicked, he teases poor Santini (because he becomes the “victim” in the end), always in a good natured manner; puts him in difficulty, but he comes out clean.
Alexandra Vandernoot is Pignon’s ex-wife. A character of little importance as far as the number of scenes is concerned, but fundamental for his past and present life.
«Mi ha sposato senza passione e lasciato senza passione», (she married me as coldly as she left me) Pignon tells Belone.
She believes herself to be good, funny, intelligent, considers Pignon a bore, doesn’t even respect him as a man let alone as a husband and father of her child, so much so that even the son refuses to see him. The boy revaluates him only when he ‘finds out’ that he’s gay and to the mother’s great disappointment, considers him a hero.
The dinner scene is lovely when she continuously starts to get up and go away to humiliate him but it’s him in the end who after having politely said that she’s «antipatica» (unpleasant) (what’s worse than being humiliated like that?) sends her away in front of the waiter:«La signora va via, cenerò da solo». (I’m dining alone).
The two workers, the ones who prevent Pignon from being in the photo at the beginning of the film, are two characters who do things in twos. We always find them together: when they come to work, whilst they work, when they see Pignon in front of the high school and think that he’s ogling teenage boys, when they wait for him to beat him up and in the end, a year after the narrated events, when Pignon, with a shove creating the dominoes effect, throws them out of shot in the new company photo.
Their voices are less elegant than the other characters: deep down they’re the only ones who react in a racist way at the discovery of Pignon’s sexual tastes; to show their ignorance, which is what prevents them from accepting Pignon for what he really is, or what he declares to be, our dialogist puts a grammatically incorrect expression in their mouths: talking about a film seen on television, one of the two sustains that «era un film educatorio, veramente educatorio» (it was an educatory film, really educatory). I don’t know what the original French expression was, but the idea comes across quite well. And then they go on to talk about the attractiveness of the star of the film, of perhaps more interest to them.
In truth they’re not bad, but they can’t understand the difference between gay and delinquent: they’re scared that “uno come Pignon” (someone like Pignon) could harm youngsters the same age as their children.
And lastly, Daniel Auteuil, Mr. Pignon. Truthfully, but this is only a reflection which can necessarily be made at the end of the film, his behaviour doesn’t change, first of all our way of looking at him changes and then all the other characters’ way of looking changes.
He talks quietly, he expresses himself in an educated manner, but if we admire those who love to show off we consider him ridiculous and rather boring.
He changes behaviour when he’s with Mr. Belone, he feels more at ease and we perceive that; we realise when he’s embarrassed, when he’s in difficulty, when he begins to gain strength (when he complains to the Director of the attention he’s getting from Dr. Bertrand). In each of these circumstances we speak, move, express ourselves, also with body language, in a different way: all this is perfectly represented in the Italian dialogues.
In general, thanks to the merit of the director and screenwriter and to the dialogist and Italian dubbing director, the film doesn’t have a moment’s standstill; the rhythm is fast, there’s no time to be distracted, we’re completely absorbed by the events, we laugh, we feel it’s all so familiar, so life-like in the various levels of speech used.
In conclusion, this is a good example of how the dubbing of a film should be done.
[original review in Italian by Vittoria Alessi]