François Pignon is a real lucky charm

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He returns tonight as Gad Elmaleh in La Doublure.

TF1 will broadcast Sunday evening Lining, by Francis Veber. When it was released in 2006, our colleagues from fluctuation tried to paint a portrait of the fishy but cult character of the director, François Pignon, over the decades.

François Pignon: a name that brings bad luck to those who approach him but which, in thirty years, has become synonymous with luck for its creator, Francis Veber. A real lucky charm who, from film to film, garners public success without stopping. Back to a character more twisted than it seems.
Name: Sprocket.
First name: Francois.
Characteristic signs: clumsy, unlucky, naive, prone to depression. Family status: divorced.
Occupation: Mr. Everybody.

The portrait seems simple and we could stop there. From one film to another, the character of Veber inevitably returns, sometimes replaced by his twin brother François Perrin. Since The Troublemaker up to Lining, Pinion changes face but remains the same, while evolving discreetly over time.

L’Emmerdeur: “The more dramatic the background, the more bizarrely reinforced the comic effects”

Veber’s strength is to have grasped that this character would be nothing in itself if he did not fit into one of the oldest comic registers: the duet. Because the humorous duo has always made the heyday of the Seventh Art: Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Jack Lemon and Walter Mathau. Same Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, each on their own, have had recourse to it in their time. The principle consists in making one assert the other, the comedy couples operating on a principle of opposition. François Pignon is the approximate and clumsy man, entangled in his obsessions. A permanent victim whose gesticulations are the driving force of the story. Opposite, his sidekick embodies ordinary virility: physical strength, confidence and little disposition to unnecessary agitation. Perfect antagonists, the two characters have long been linked by an attachment/annoyance relationship.

Everything changed in the 1990s: Pinion became the symbol of instrumentalized man, reduced to the status of an object good to be thrown away after use (The dinner of fools). He loses in this transformation a good part of his poetry. Facing him, no longer a gruff but generous gangster or other adventurer, but an imbued and cynical businessman, sitting on a financial power that gives him all the rights. The principle of opposition, without which Pignon would not be much, changes register: from now on its naivety serves above all to underline the cynicism and the moral mediocrity of the “other”. Basically, the big winner of the comico-sadistic tribulations of Pignon is the viewer, whom Francis Veber increasingly allows to take a condescending look at his character. The man in the room becomes the powerful, the one who can both call himself close to and different from Pignon.

Depression in the 1970s (The Troublemaker), unemployed in the 1980s (The fugitives), beast of the show for senior executives in the 1990s (The dinner of fools), small employee ready for all the lies to keep his place in the 2000s (Closet), François Pignon is everyone without really being anyone. In Lining, the role is even open to “visible minorities”, this time with Gad Elmaleh in average French, modest little valet.
Could this be yet another transformation of the most famous semi-loose in France? Clearly: in 2006, who is François Pignon?

Before Le Dîner de cons, Jacques Villeret played Le Dîner du president

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