Sunday, 19 June 2011

REVIEW: Potiche (trophy wife)

Dir.: François Ozon
With: Catherine Deneuve, Gérard Depardieu

This film was a very pleasant surprise. A wonderful comedy set in the 70s France with a great cast and meticulous attention to the period’s “look”. It borders on the kitsch and some scenes are unbelievably naff, the interiors seem to have been borrowed from the “Dynasty” series. However, instead of poking fun at that era, it works more like a love letter to the days long gone when the hairstyles were big and the coolest music was by the Bee Gees.

The real gem here is the chemistry between the two monsters of French cinema, Deneuve and Depardieu so obviously enjoy being re-united onscreen together for the umpteenth time, their pleasure is quite apparent even to the blindest audience. Catherine Deneuve, being a woman of royal bearing and vivid lipstick, is absolutely perfect as an oppressed housewife who manages to liberate herself and her (very annoying) children from her husband’s tyrannical control. Not only does she stand up to him, she also turns out to be a talented businesswoman, politician and even reveals that she has not been the most faithful wife in the world against all popular belief. Her performance is very measured but quite tongue-in-cheek and some of her lines are just … well, let’s say that they don’t make them like this anymore. The use of umbrellas in the movie is a nice little nod to the “Umbrellas of Cherbourg”.

This film is farcical and satirical but there is also a strong sense of darkness in it – the ending makes you wonder just how far France and the rest of the Western world has really progressed since the 70s, especially in view of the latest DSK scandal. The battle of the sexes in “Potiche” is not only the central theme but also a prism through which Ozon makes quite an interesting commentary on life in general. French comedy as such is not my favourite type of that genre (rule Britannia!) but every now and then there are some wonderful works, like “Priceless” with Audrey Tautou and “8 Women”, also by Ozon. What unites them is a certain naïveté and a strange affinity for bad taste. And in a funny way although they make you cringe, like an old Benny Hill episode, they are also quite endearing like the woolly socks your grandma knitted for you.

Conclusion – if you’d like to laugh, hear some French spoken, inspect Catherine Deneuve’s face for traces of plastic surgery, wonder how much weight Gérard Depardieu has put on, feel empowered, warm and fuzzy, go and watch “Potiche”!

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