Casting against type is a risky business – the results can be terrific or terrible. Luckily for viewers of the 1998 film Man is a Woman, Antoine de Caunes excels as a troubled man who tries to please his family but succeeds in pleasing nobody.
In Britain, de Caunes remains best known as the host of the frivolous late-night Channel Four show Eurotrash. With sidekick Jean-Paul Gaultier and regulars such as Lola Ferrari and Eddy Wally, the programme poked fun at Britain’s mainland European neighbours.
De Caunes remained at its helm for some eight years from 1993.
Understandably, then, his move into serious acting raised some eyebrows. In Man is a Woman – or L’homme est une Femme Comme les Autres, to give its original French title – he plays gay Jewish clarinet player Simon Eskenazy.
His conservative, orthodox uncle offers him a considerable inheritance on the condition that he marries and produces an heir. He duly weds unsuspecting fellow musician Rosalie (played by his then real-life partner, Elsa Zylberstein) and they have a child together.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Simon’s financial comfort comes at the expense of his emotional wellbeing.
I am not alone in having enjoyed de Caunes in the role. He was nominated for a César for best actor in 1999, and a sequel – He is my Girl, or La Folle Histoire d’Amour de Simon Eskenazy – was released a decade later.
Eurotrash it isn’t.