18 June 2011

François Ozon’s ‘Potiche’

François Ozon’s films in recent years include the dramas 5x2, Under the Sand (Sous le sable) and Swimming Pool (La piscine) and the comedy 8 Women (8 Femmes). Potiche, ( a trophy wife), which has now been released in the UK, is, like 8 Women, based on a comic play and stars Catherine Deneuve. As in her 100th film, A Christmas Tale (Un conte de Noël), Deneuve plays the matriarch of a French business family. In the musical film which made her name in 1964, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, she helped her mother in their umbrella shop (parapluiterie? – probably not), so it seems appropriate that in Potiche she steps in to run the family umbrella factory (which seems to bear as much resemblance to the real thing as Willy Wonka’s did to Cadburys), and ends with a song. 
The film is set in late 1970s France under Giscard d'Estaing’s presidency when his Prime Minister, Roland Barre, advocated industrial restructuring leading to increasing unemployment against opposition from the powerful French trade unions. Gérard Depardieu plays the local (and communist) mayor (a significant figure in France).  Not surprisingly, with Deneuve and Depardieu and its retrokitsch 70s setting, the film was a hit in France, so as with another success there, Little White Lies, don’t expect intellectual profundity. Nonetheless, without making heavy weather of it, the film touches on issues of feminism, adultery, abortion and deindustrialisation –  perhaps too lightly for some tastes.

Pretty certain to entertain in a drab wet June here in England.

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