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Yan is a successful artist. One day he is waiting for his date Florence to turn up at his apartment. As the doorbell rings, he finds another young woman in underwear on his doorstep: his neighbor Eva! She tells him she locked herself out of her apartment and insists that he helps her. Whilst Yan is trying to enter Eva's apartment via their adjoining balcony, his phone rings. It is Florence, and she is not impressed when a female voice answers the phone. At this point, Eva's rabidly jealous boyfriend Boris returns home. Seeing Yan in his apartment, he deduces that Eva has been having an affair behind his back. Florence then turns up and Yan tries in vain to explain the situation. By chance, Florence's husband suddenly puts in an appearance. After that, it all starts to get a bit complicated. Written by
With such a title, the tone is set: whoever leaves the elevator will probably go to the wrong doorstep, the one in the right, right? Wrong!
Surprisingly, the elevator never plays the required role plot-wise, only the two doors on the 6th floor do, to the point one of them got credited in the end (cute gag). Still, the movie with its improbably weird title is the expected comedy of errors, with its share of incidents and misunderstandings. It was directed in 1988, by an expert of the genre: Edouard Molinaro and it starred the perfect actor for such a twisted movie: Pierre Richard, as Yan, a successful painter leaving in one of these big bohemian lofts in Paris' upper class quarter.
Indeed, Richard was born to play that role, (although it's not saying much about the film). For instance, there is one scene where Yan shows two guns, on his right hand, the one his father brought from Algeria, on the left, a gun-shaped lighter his friend bought in New York. As he struggles to explain to two bewildered policemen that he accidentally shoots his neighbor Boris (Richard Bohringer) because he thought the real gun was the lighter, he pulls the lighter's trigger, and you certainly haven't seen enough comedies if you don't expect a 'Bang!' to come after. You got it, both guns were real. The gag doesn't work despite but because of its predictability.
So, what we've got here is the quintessential 'Pierre Richard' gag. Pierre Richard, with his curly hair and goofy appearance, has specialized in roles of unlucky schmucks whose well-meaning intentions always lead up to crazy situations. And it often works within the same binary timing. 2 years before, In his last movie with Depardieu, where they played their "clown / straight man" duo for the third time, him as a fugitive and Depardieu, an ex-convict, he was asked to bend his head when he goes outside. Naturally, seeing two cops walking toward him, he bends it so low he hits a lamppost, drawing their attention. He moves forward, saying he's okay only to hit it a second time.
Hilarious classic Richard! His characters are so desperate to play by the rules they make the situation even crazier. In "On the Left as Leaving the Elevator", despite being 54 and 23 older than his love interest, Florence, played by the sweet and sophisticated Fanny Contençon, he looks young enough, to play one of his trademark characters before the "Tall Blonde" would look shorter with unrecognizably white hair, and a comical appeal belonging to the past. The film plays like a last gasp of nostalgic air. Nostalgically speaking, Molinaro, who directed such comedic gems as "The Birdcage", "Oscar" and "Jo", all adapted from plays, proves that he works on familiar territory.
Indeed, the late, twice Oscar-nominated, director provided classic behind-closed-doors comedies and never has the expression been so appropriate since it works as the film's opening and running gag. Noticing that her boyfriend Boris forgot his briefcase, Eva leaves the apartment and then locked herself out of her in sexy underwear (I'm sure this movie established her status as a French sex-symbol). She rings at Yan's doorbell but expecting Florence to come at any time, and given the way she's dressed, or more specifically, undressed, he's reluctant to let her in. He eventually accepts and suggests to get to her apartment from the adjoining balcony and opens the door.
Naturally, Boris comes back because he forgot his briefcase and when Florence calls Yan, Eva picks up the phone. Yet the film goes transcends its vaudevillian aspect, Florence doesn't get easily upset, and Bohringer expresses his jealousy in such a flamboyant way he becomes the film's romantic lead while the 'hero', Richard is the eternal victim of 'bad' luck, reaching its peak in the cops' scene. The superior officer is a tired and not-too-smart looking Michel Creton and his subordinate is a freshly graduated black nerd-looking officer played by the ironically named Eric Blanc. Oddly enough, what used to be my favorite part doesn't ring the same bell in my mind (no pun intended).
I won't go as far as suggesting that the fact that the character was black was supposed to be the gag, it was probably his young age and the fact that most cops in France carry the reputation of being dumb. I give the writers the benefit of the doubt (although the portrayal of the sexy black maid was not deprived from racial stereotypes). But the thing that makes the joke fall a little bit apart is the fact that what Yan desperately tries to explain are pretty obvious for the audience, and it doesn't even take a smart officer to clear it for us (no pun intended). This is why the lighter-gun mistake, one of the film's best moment is still not as funny as the lamppost gag. You see it coming.
I guess this is why I'm not too enthusiastic about Pierre Richard's performance as he was part of the most predictable gags. As for Boris' jealousy, it's a bit overused as it goes from a running gag to an irritating gimmick. Overall, the film is not a laugh-riot, despite some solid performances, it's not the masterpiece of the year, but it has a sunny freshness, maybe the lighting has to do with it, it also carries an old-fashioned innocence probably due to the film-maker being a man from the 60's, an era where it was possible to laugh at stereotypes, it worked better with gay than with black people in this film, and despite its kitschy 80's English song, some bits seem out-of place.
I noticed the number on Yan's doorstep was 6, so I think it's the right rating plus one for Richard's last great comic role, Bohringer's fierce passion, Béart's sex-appeal and a reasonable length (less than 80 month) making the film enjoyable from being to end.
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