So 'Potiche', French slang for trophy wife, the subject of this period French drama set in 1977, starring French cinemas contemporary cinema legends Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. Catherine is still the queen of ageing gracefully whilst Derpardieu is as chunky as a city trader's bonus, the chemistry between them electric. Potiche would earn the coveted BAFTA nomination for Best Film in a Foreign Language in 2011. Glamorous oldie Suzanne Pujol(Deneuve)is the devoted wife of wealthy umbrella factory owner Robert Pujol ( Fabrice Luchini), respected in the small French town and running their marriage like their family business, unsatisfactorily and outdated. Whne robert is struck down by another bad turn bonking his secretary (Nadege Dumoulin), Mrs P jumps at the chance to run the factory in his absence, her first task to deal with a strike and disaffected workforce. She will go up against old flame and local communist mayor Maurice Babin (Depardieu), meaning sparks will fly and not just from the metal grinding machine on the factory floor. Suzanne quickly turns the factory around and empowered by her new freedoms is no longer the trophy wife, divorcing Robert and employing the kids to boost their self esteem, Laurent (Jeremie Remier)taking over design, married daughter Joelle (Judith Godriche)supporting mum in the office.But dad is impatient to return to work and take back control, Suzanne filing for divorce now she is liberated, in the bedroom and on the factory floor, loved by her workforce and both Robert and Maurice getting a taste of female emancipation. But this is business now as both love struck men plot to being her down, if they can forget just want a lovable rascal Suzanne used to be. I enjoyed this and frothy and romantic fun. Deneuve is fabulous in the lead and Depardieu happy to let her fly.Its camp as its funny and feminism as it's most palatable. It's old style french cinema with a modern twist. I didn't realize how sexy Catherine still as at 70 and certainly one one of the most beautiful and sophisticated women young actresses in her day. She has 10 French Cesars nominations with 2 wins and also Oscar nominated for Indochine (1992). Gerard Depardieu also has one Oscar nomination, Cyrano De Bergerac (1991), but 14 Cesar nominations and 4 wins.It's a light and frothy film and a long way from the oppressive hi-tar smoking French dramas that we are usually presented with over the Channel, reason enough to recommend it and with its mix of romance, politics, humor and even some song and dance it's hard not to like this. Its joyous an it's refreshing. I think there is a French word for that. I like this old bird Catherine Deneuve. It is subtitle heavy though and if you don't like them then maybe not for you. As I have said before the better movies are often foreign as only the good ones make it here.
At first glance despite Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu starring in this film, who anyone with even a passing acquaintance with French films will have seen before, "Potiche" doesn't seem to be a very accessible film for the English viewer. To start with there's the tricky matter of the title - Potiche has been translated as "Trophy Wife", which doesn't quite capture the negative connotations of such a title for a wife who would be seen more as a drudge than WAG wannabee, and this does mean that you potentially start the film without truly understanding its basic premise. Deneuve plays Suzanne Pujol the much repressed wife of one Robert Pujol (Fabrice Luchini) who in between running his wife's late father's umbrella factory finds plenty of time to womanise as only a main character in a French film can. When he falls ill Suzanne will step into the breach with surprising consequences in a film that, despite the fact it is an adaptation of a French play and takes as its setting 1977 France mid industrial upheaval, does I think still have plenty to offer to the Anglophone viewer. What we get is a film which is part farce, part satire and commentary on contemporary France under Sarkozy and part comment on the female condition, and in particular on being a woman in France. It's ironic that the French have a word "potiche" (literally an empty vessel) the title that describes so well the role of some women which we can't quite translate in English, when French is a language that doesn't even grace women with a different word for their sex and their marital status, to be a french woman is forever to be "femme".
The star of this film is undoubtedly Deneuve, now well and truly a grande dame of French cinema, though looking far younger than her 66 years on screen it has to be said. In this film with some nifty costumes and a willingness to not take herself too seriously - as is evident in the extras on the out takes where Deneuve seems very natural and self-deprecating, as well as in the opening scene where she is seen jogging and communing with Nature in a comic reference to Snow White. There are a few laugh out loud moments in the film, her co-star Luchini providing a few with his interactions with his secretary, managing to seem strangely likeable and lascivious at the same time, but this isn't strictly a comedy as such and it's actually a hard film to pigeon hole.
Depardieu appears as the Communist Mayor, Maurice Babin who has history with a younger Suzanne and at first seems set to be the love interest in this film. Luckily, though a few stereotypical Frenchisms do pepper this film his story is not set to turn out as we might predict, though to understand his involvement in the film does mean you have to know a little about French social history - in particular their wont to strike and the influence that Mayors actually wield in provincial France. The film follows Suzanne as she starts to become more than the unimportant and unintelligent doormat she has been written off as at the start of the film and to be taken more seriously in every way.
Depardieu has good chemistry with Deneuve (they've starred together in films as far back as the eighties), though if you have seen him before you can't help but be a little distracted by thinking that, actually, he has aged far, far less well than Deneuve, there seems to be increasingly more of him, and he makes obvious the passage of time that, should you not know otherwise you might think had stopped in the 70's. Good use of filters, lighting and great costumes and period touches (my favourite was the furry telephone) mean that you might feel that this film was filmed a few decades ago were you not as I was a little distracted by the voluminous Gérard.
The director, Francois Ozon (The Swimming Pool, Eight Women), has done a fine job convincing the viewer that they are back in the seventies, though IMDB does point to a few bloopers - I did notice that the car headlights were the wrong colour, in the main the film works well and has a feel of "Abigail's Party" about it. The sound track and a few interesting song and dance scenes (Depardieu amazingly managing to pull off dancing a la Pulp Fiction fairly successfully), works well and adds to the period feel of the film, as does the constant haze of cigarette smoke and the strains of the Bee Gees.
There was, too, a good cast of supporting characters, from the son, Laurent, the Joëlle the daughter who sports the most amazing Farah Fawcett hairdo. I particularly enjoyed Nadège Dumoulin's interpretation of the Pujol's secretary Nadine who starts out as the wife wronger and turns into her biggest fan and Laurent is gloriously camp whilst being strangely attractive in his seventies outfits.
The translator has done a competent job in translating the film as far as the subtitles go in my opinion, there were only a few moments where I felt that the essence of what was being said was not captured, ignoring the impossible exercise in translation that is the title, though for any French speaking viewer, it is a little annoying to say the least that the subtitles can't actually be switched off as I would have liked to enjoy the film without being distracted by them.
As a way of passing 99 minutes and being entertained, especially if you like all things French this 2010 film works well, though it never quite develops to be the rallying call to women that you think it might do (though the ending is fairly satisfying), with a casual acceptance of adultery and a "if you can't beat em join em" attitude that could only be French, as long as you don't take it all too seriously or expect to be laughing in the aisles, or seeing more than a gentle commentary on French society, I can't say this film is the best thing I've ever seen but it's worth the watch and I enjoyed it.
DVD released in UK in June 2011, and was watched by me as part of the Amazon Vine programme - currently available for £9.43.
consist of a trailer, out takes (fairly amusing to watch) and, strangely, of the costume tryouts. There is no director's commentary or other notable features on the British release of the DVD
This is a 15 film and seems to be in the correct category given the adult nature of some of the scenes