According to an old Chinese proverb, if you save a man's life you're responsible for him thereafter. But what if the man whose life you saved was trying to kill himself? Are you more responsible than ever? Antoine (Daniel Auteuil), a maÃtre d' at a Parisian brasserie, seems to think so. In AprÃs Vous, Pierre Salvadori's playfully depressive farce, Antoine is a guy who aims to please, and not just those who are near and dear to him. Everybody gets the after-you treatment, even Louis (JosÃ Garcia), a wounded teddy bear of a man who, when Antoine first lays eyes on him, is standing on a suitcase in the middle of a park at night, with a noose around his neck.
There follows an amusingly gruesome scene in which Antoine and Louis resolve their difference of opinion regarding Louis' future. And Salvadori presents it rather matter of factly, allowing the comedy and tragedy to play off each other. Not content to save Louis' life, Antoine decides to help him put it back together ' give Louis a place to stay, find him a job, even patch things up with Louis' girlfriend, who dumped him not long before his stroll in the park. And, this being a farce, complications ensue. Antoine's girlfriend wonders why he has time for everybody but her. And Louis' girlfriend, whom Antoine meets on the sly, turns out to be Antoine's type.
Salvadori, who co-wrote the script with BenoÃt Graffin, doesn't force anything; there are none of those flamboyant entrances and exits we associate with farce. On the contrary, the movie takes its time, like a gently rising soufflÃ that runs little risk of collapsing. And the humor can be delightfully morbid, as in Harold and Maude, another movie about suicide and romance. "How do you like your chicken?" someone asks Louis at one point. "Dead," he replies. Garcia, who looks like Danny DeVito, only taller, less bald and much better looking, keeps Louis in a funk for most of the movie. And the guy does get to you after a while, but that makes sense: He gets to Antoine, too.
As for Auteuil, he proves to be a master of comic understatement, rarely raising his voice while coming up with one beautiful reaction shot after another. Antoine is one of those guys who, without specifically asking for any, always winds up in trouble. And although we aren't given any explanation for why he's such a hopeless mensch, we're perfectly content to follow along as he destroys the world while trying to save it. AprÃs lui, le deluge.