Film Review: ‘Potiche’


There are so many reasons to love François Ozon’s latest film, Potiche (2011). It possesses jollity, a strong sense of playfulness and boasts the fact that it reunites the much-loved belle dame of French cinema Catherine Deneuve with the larger than life Gerard Depardieu (her last role was opposite him in the 1988 film A Strange Place to Meet).

These are all good reasons to see this laugh-out-loud comedy that mixes humour with bigger issues such as sexual emancipation, identity and equality.

When all we hear about is how broke and jobless we all are (not to mention the tedious rhetoric of Cameron telling us how to improve Britain) this film, with its strong l’amour de la vie, is incredibly uplifting and infectious in a guilt yet ultimately pleasurable manner that dispels such gloom.

The film is an adaptation of a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy with a few additions from Ozon such as development of the minor characters and opening up the action. Its gently political theme echoes Brit flick Made in Dagenam (2010) with a French bourgeois element added in. The tale is of the ‘potiche’ ( the ‘trophy wife’, played by Denevue) Suzanne Pujol, whose husband is taken hostage by his work force, forcing her to take over the family factory.

Rising to the task, Suzanne begins to shine improving the factories working conditions and employing her children Laurent (Jérémie Renier) and Joëlle (the stunning Judith Godréche) both who add some flourishes to the plot. However, once she has taken the reins of the factory complications arise in the form of ex-lover Maurice Babin (Depardieu) who encourages her leadership to take a more political edge as well as attempting to rekindle the old flame of their romance.

Ozon’s films are distinctive and this one bears the trademark melodrama and camp quality of his 8 Women (2002) minus the musical aspect. It does boast a suitably 70’s soundtrack however and includes a memorable dance scene with Depardieu and Denevue in a club aptly called ‘The Bada Boom’ (you can see a snippet of it in the trailer [below]…just to wet your appetite). Stylized retro colouring and split screens complete the look.

I guarantee that you will enjoy this camp, funny and political film that uses its seventies setting to engage the viewer in equality issues that are still relevant today.

Joe Walsh