APRES VOUS . . . — ** 1/2 — Daniel Auteuil, Jose Garcia, Sandrine Kiberlain; in French, with English subtitles; rated R (profanity, brief drugs, violence, vulgarity).

"Apres Vous . . . " marks the second time that Daniel Auteuil has played a character who saves the life of a suicidal person.

The first was "Girl on the Bridge," director Patrice Leconte's delightful, 1999 fantasy/drama about carnival performers, knife-throwing and fate.

The comedy "Apres Vous . . . " is less peculiar but considerably more contrived, more forced than "Girl on the Bridge."

To be honest, what makes "Apres Vous . . . " watchable is Auteuil, the veteran sad-faced French actor who's just as comfortable doing comedy as he is doing drama. (His most popular films in this country are probably the 2001 comedy "The Closet" and the 1986 drama "Jean de Florette.")

Auteuil stars as Antoine Letoux, a successful, well-liked waiter at a four-star restaurant who suddenly becomes responsible for Louis (Jose Garcia), a pathetic wreck of a man. That's because Antoine stops Louis from hanging himself in a park and offers him a place to stay until he feels better. Antoine also feels obliged to straighten out his new charge's professional and personal lives.

Antoine's long-suffering girlfriend Christine (Marilyne Canto), however, is none too pleased by this turn of events. Nor is his boss (Michele Moretti), whom Antoine strong-arms into giving Louis a job as a sommelier.

What Antoine really wants to do is get Louis back together with his ex-girlfriend Blanche (Sandrine Kiberlain). But first he has to break up her current relationship . . . and then he has to fight his own attraction to her.

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Co-screenwriter/director Pierre Salvadori clearly tries to make Louis less of an irritant as the film goes along. But as played by Garcia, he's so hapless, so needy that you kind of wish Antoine would simply give him the boot.

However, the scenes in which Antoine meddles with Blanche's life are more interesting, thanks to the slow-simmering chemistry between Auteuil and Kiberlain, who may not be a Hollywood beauty but is definitely appealing.

As predictable as the whole thing is, there are a couple of amusing scenes that may have you smiling (particularly Louis's job "audition").

"Apres Vous . . . " is rated R for occasional use of strong sexual profanity, some brief drug content (use of prescription drugs and a couple of references), violence (including an attempted suicide and acts of vandalism), and use of some crude sexual slang terms. Running time: 110 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com