- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

In Hollywood hands, The Closet ("La Placard" in French), new from Miramax Home Entertainment, would likely emerge as just another loutish, leering gross-out romp. Under the subtle supervision of veteran French farceur Francis Veber, known for "The Dinner Game," the film surfaces as a genial, character-driven comedy as rich in human insights as it is in wit. It's our …
Video pick of the week
"The Closet" (priced for rental VHS, also available on DVD) gives us dull, lonely, hetero (and recently divorced) accountant Francois (Daniel Auteuil), who falsely "comes out" in a bid to save his job at a rubber products company. Though he never alters his own behavior, his announcement causes his co-workers and family to regard him in an entirely new light, with reactions ranging from revulsion to fascination.
Veber milks much mirth from openly homophobic office associate Felix's (Gerard Depardieu) flustered handling of the situation when he's forced to court his "gay" co-worker to avoid jeopardizing his own employment. Even Francois' female supervisor (Alexandra Vandernoot) suddenly sees her hitherto unexciting underling less as a cipher than as a challenge to her feminine wiles. And when Francois is convinced to man a company float during a Parisian gay pride parade, his estranged teenage son views him as both a celebrity and a hero. Francois, meanwhile, gains invaluable life lessons from his experience and becomes a changed man.
While hardly prudish, "The Closet," further elevated by an excellent cast, is never vulgar, nor does it stoop to cheap laughs; indeed, with its keen exploration of belief systems and ultimate message of tolerance, the film registers as downright wholesome. We can only hope that the inevitable American remake can retain the film's considerable low-key charms.
If you rent the title, we'd suggest the DVD, equipped with large, clear subtitles, unlike the small, cramped lettering that hinders the VHS version.

The 'A' list
Two music-driven theatrical releases dance their way into local vidstores over the next few weeks: Columbia/TriStar sets an early January date for the Mariah Carey showcase Glitter, while Baz Luhrmann's lavish period piece Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, arrives next month via 20th Century Fox.
A pair of new comedies, Pootie Tang (Paramount), drawn from Chris Rock's HBO show and starring Mr. Rock and Dave Attell; and the sci-fi spoof Evolution (Columbia/TriStar), toplining David Duchovny of "The X-Files" and Julianne Moore of "Hannibal," also surface in December.
Action fans, meanwhile, can look forward to the high-octane surprise smash The Fast and the Furious (Universal), starring the ever-intense Vin Diesel; and Brother, the hard-boiled Japanese actor-auteur Takeshi Kitano's American feature debut (Columbia/TriStar), which joins the typically taciturn Takeshi with Claude Maki and Omar Epps.
All of the above with be priced for rental VHS and also available on DVD, including a deluxe double-disc set for "Moulin Rouge."

Cult corner
On the offbeat beat, Anchor Bay Entertainment accords gala Limited Edition double-disc DVD treatment to Richard Rush's mind-bending 1980 cult movie "The Stunt Man," starring Peter O'Toole as a driven director and Steve Railsback as the much put-upon title character. Disc 1 offers the widescreen film itself, complete with audio commentary by Mr. Rush, Mr. O'Toole, Mr. Railsback and co-stars Barbara Hershey, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell and Chuck Bail, theatrical trailers, deleted scenes, complete screenplay and myriad other extras. Disc 2 contains a new feature-length documentary, "The Sinister Saga of Making 'The Stunt Man,' " likewise directed by Mr. Rush. The two-disc set is tagged at $34.95. Anchor Bay also offers the film in single-disc DVD ($19.98) and VHS ($14.98) versions.

'Bots will be bots

And speaking of cult items, Joel Hodgson and his 'bots in the front row strike again with two new "Mystery Science Theater 3000" DVDs, out this week via Rhino Home Video ($19.95 each): the 1975 action flick Mitchell, with Joe Don Baker in the neanderthal title role; and one of the late cable-TV series' funniest episodes, Manos, the Hands of Fate, a supernatural 1966 jaw-dropper created by (and starring) an ambitious Texas fertilizer salesman. Each DVD includes an "MST3K" collectible postcard.

Phan mail
Dear Phantom: Where can I get a copy of The Man Who Would Be King? Sean Connery and Michael Caine starred in this film, based on a Rudyard Kipling story. Thanks for your help.
Rob Carney, via e-mail
Movies Unlimited (800/ 4MOVIES) carries three editions of John Huston's 1975 adventure classic: full-format VHS ($10.99), letterboxed VHS ($13.49) and DVD ($16.99).

Send your video comments and queries to Phantom of the Movies, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002 or e-mail us at: [email protected] And check out our Web site at www.videoscopemag.com.


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