Film, Drama
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You can place a bet on anything these days. Who’s going to win the Palme d’Or? Will Shia LeBeouf finally nab an Oscar in 2012? And will Tom Cruise pull another crazy stunt before the year ends?

But whatever you do, don’t take a flutter on whether the next film by prolific French director François Ozon will be any good. To say that he’s had an erratic (if consistently intriguing) career is something of an understatement. His reference points range from Luis Buñuel (1998’s ‘Sitcom’) and Rainer Werner Fassbinder (2000’s ‘Water Drops on Burning Rocks’) to Jacques Demy (2002’s ‘8 Women’) and Nicolas Roeg (2003’s ‘Swimming Pool’). Also, the quality of his films ranges from the highly accomplished and distinctive (2000’s ‘Under the Sand’) to the frankly baffling (2008’s ‘Ricky’).

So where does his new film figure on that broad canvas? Well, the peaches-and-cream colour scheme, flamboyant garments and near-regal presence of the Grand Dame of Grand Dames, Catherine Deneuve (in one of her most enjoyable and self-deprecating performances to date), definitely brings Demy to mind. The fact that the story takes place in a family-run umbrella factory (a nod to ‘The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’) seals the deal. And in the all-important quality stakes, this has ‘hit’ written all over it in rainbow-hued psychedelic bubble-writing.

Adapted from a boulevard comedy by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy, the film casts a wry eye over the outrageous sexual and political attitudes of the late 1970s and dares to ask whether anything has really changed. Fabrice Luchini is hilarious as Robert Pujol, the diminutive wrecking ball of right-wing fury who runs his umbrella factory with an iron fist. That is until his surly workforce downs tools and goes on strike and his enemy, pinko local mayor Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu), is brought in to broker a deal. Under pressure, Robert’s fragile ticker gives up and, as he rests up abroad, his Tinkerbell-like trophy wife Suzanne (Deneuve) must take the reins. She injects the ailing business with her own enlightened practices, much to his chagrin.

Simultaneously mocking and revering the look and content of the archetypal ’70s sitcom, ‘Potiche’ succeeds largely due to the fact that all the performers understand the ‘wink-wink’ nature of the material. Ozon evokes the spirit of the era through kitsch, split-screen editing and by filling the soundtrack with old-school Euro chanteurs like Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday, and even tossing in a bit of Boney M.

It’s as light and soft as a pink satin pillow, and a little overstretched, but it’s also packed with bawdy zingers and pointed political barbs. It even ends on a hypothetical for all the gamblers out there: if prompted, could Deneuve take high office in France? Put me down for a tenner!

By: David Jenkins


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday June 17 2011
Duration: 103 mins

Cast and crew

Director: François Ozon
Screenwriter: François Ozon
Cast: Karin Viard
Catherine Deneuve
Gérard Depardieu
Judith Godrèche
Fabrice Luchini
Jérémie Rénier

Average User Rating

3.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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Classic French actor, Classic French actress and fab director, but someone forgot to get a decent writer........................... One joke doesn’t make a film funny. One fumble doesn’t turn it in to a love story. And one song doesn’t make it a musical. This seems to one of those films that looks good on paper but doesn’t deliver. It was all predictable, from the husband having it away with his secretary to the son having it away with a man that could be his brother. Everything seemed to be a rehash of the worst bits of every film I’ve seen for the last 20 years. Total let down.

Classic French actor (Gérard Depardieu), Classic French actress (Catherine Deneuve) and fab director (François Ozon), but someone forgot to get a decent writer....................​....... Just watched it.. thats 100mins im never getting back. I was once told if you cant say anything nice dont say anything at all. ...............................................................................

Only the French can make films like `Potiche` . . . on one level a very `camp` comedy and on another level a subtle examination of social change. Whereas some directors might have produced a nauseating pro-feminist left-wing pleaser, Potiche is ironical and balanced its portrayal of Deneuve's anti-heroine, who manages the difficult trick of being conservatively `pro-family` and progressively liberal at the same time. Depardieux's left-wing mayor is mercifully given a `human` dimension which will not please those of left who would prefer a working-class hero. As to whether the mimicking of 70's cinematography enhances the satirical elements I`m not sure, but I have to say that I found this film consistently entertaining, deeply philosophical and quinessentially` french.` - charming, cynical but ultimately humanist.

The opening scene: Catherine Deneuve is going for a run through the woods; she sees a wild deer and gasps in wonder; she sees a dove and sighs with contentment; she sees two rabbits having sex, and looks embarrassed. This gag is the culmination of an opening scene of several minutes. And it's a high point. Someone has spent money on this film to recreate the seventies, sometimes entire streets being filled with 70s era cars. But unless you are very, very nostalgic for a time thirty years passed, there is nothing else to see here. The cinematography is terrible, shot in the Hollywood style of putting the camera close to the star and moving it around all the time. The jokes are too occasional, week and predictable for it to be a comedy. And it can't cut it as a drama as after thirty minutes (as long as I spent in the cinema before walking out) I could not have cared less what happened to any of the characters. So this is the big-name big-budget sophisticated French film for 2011. What a shame. It's stuff like this that must keep the blockbuster crowd from thinking that what they perceive to be independent cinema has any merit. Catherine Deneuve is royalty in France and beyond, and I think that stops people from seeing this turkey for what it is.

The film made me want to know more about the poltics of the time; at the end, roles have been changed but work and politics have fractured and broken up the family. All of the performers do well but Deneuve and Depardieu, as two people with a 'history' are really charming in their parts. Looks like fluff but I think it has heart and maybe more substance than I was able to appreciate. The sole disappointment was the photography which didn't really help the film's comedy much. Take a look at the scene where Deneuve finds herself obliged tp walk home in high heels; to me, the slightly careless shooting of the moment deprives the actress of her dignity. Enjoyable if camp.

Yes, a full cinema again for this overly long film, that would benefit from further edits to tighten up the story and remove the fat. French humour if you like french humour, most don't, but certainly some chuckles. Left underwhelmed.

I appear to be following in Archgate’s wake this week. I too noticed the audience were of a cetain age. Clearly Deneuve’s acting and modelling of the 60’s/70’s is well remembered. She certainly hasn’t lost any of her talent, looks, or charm. She is extremely watchable, and gives this movie a lightness of touch other actresses would find difficult. . Arguably, this movie is about women’s changing roles in society, as the period in which it’s set follows hot on the heels of the equal pay (for women) movement of the early 70’s. A good humorous script, and well acted by all the cast. Enjoyable on any number of levels. Four stars.

An absolute joy from start to finish. Cinema was filled with patrons of a certain age - proving there is an audience out there for quality films such as this. This is a five star film.

An absolute joy from start to finish. Cinema was filled with patrons of a certain age - proving there is an audience out there for quality films such as this. This is a five star film.