Potiche ~ 2010 ~ DVD

Now

Then

Who says men age better than women? Gérard Depardieu seems to be following the physical arc of Marlon Brando: He gets larger and larger everytime I see him. sixty-seven year old Catherine Deneuve on the other hand is nearly as lovely as ever. She certainly still has that vibrant screen presence that allows her to shine.

François Ozon’s latest release, Potiche is a charming, light political comedy. It’s the Spring of 1977, and Suzanne (Deneuve) is married to an umbrella factory owner (the factory was part of her “dowry”, and was founded by her father). While her father was a patrician owner, her husband Robert is a combative one, not enamoring himself to the factory workers. One morning he gets a call that they have struck for higher wages and improved working conditions. When Suzanne suggests that he be more considerate of the workers, he ignores her. To him, a woman’s place is not even in the kitchen – there are servants for that. She should have no opinions on things, except for his which she should “share”.

They have two grown children. The son is in college but has no direction on what he wants to do with his life. He’s sure of one thing – he doesn’t want any part of the umbrella factory. Her older daughter is married with children, but is not happy with her lot. She she asks her mother if she is truly happy (she can’t imagine living like her mother does) she is told by Suzanne that she is, of course because “I’ve made up my mind to be.”

When Robert goes off to confront the workers he is taken hostage. This sets the stage for Depardieu, who is the mayor and the head of the leftist party. He’s also an old lover of Suzanne’s. Their young relationship becomes entwined with the politics of the day, so that the film takes on the flavor of light romantic comedy. The politics is only there as an after thought. Suzanne acquits herself with honor when she is forced to take the reigns of the company after her husband has a heart attack. Robert comments that there has been a major turnabout. Their relationship has moved from trophy wife to trophy husband.

Official Tagline: France, 1977: Women’s Liberation is in the air.  Another line from the movie really says more about the philosophy of the film: “How beautiful life is”.

Karin Viard (Mademoiselle Plusse in Delicatessen) plays Robert’s secretary and plaything, who is radicalized (too strong a word for this movie) by Suzanne. Viard is one of my favorite french actresses, who I most recently saw at Tribeca in April in a so-so film, My Piece of the Pie. She was the best thing about it. And between she and Deneuve (ok, Depardieu fits) the film becomes highly watchable if not particularly memorable.

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