Friday, February 13, 2015

Taking centre stage

"Well, that was very French." Jen's pithy summary of Potiche there, and an accurate one too. A battle-of-the-sexes comedy directed by Francois Ozon and starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu in which industrial action is prominent - it couldn't really be much more French if it tried.

At least this time Jen couldn't complain that there was no plot. Deneuve is Suzanne Pujol, the impeccably turned-out trophy wife of the title, accustomed to being overruled or ignored by her domineering and philandering husband, reactionary umbrella factory manager Robert. When he's laid low by illness brought on by a workers' strike, Suzanne steps into the breach, aided by communist mayor and former lover Maurice Babin (a very beefy Depardieu). Diffusing tensions by showing compassion and respect for the workforce, she gains self-confidence and is inspired to set her sights higher in targeting political office.

Suzanne's self-empowerment - and the parallel disempowerment of her husband (who ends up being forced to sit at home watching daytime TV, no longer capable of holding sway over a secretary who has herself wised up) - is predictable from the start, but that doesn't make the journey to that eventual destination any less enjoyable. It's a lighthearted satire on sexual politics with some elements of bawdy farce and the odd slightly more emotionally resonant moment thrown in, all staged in a kitsch 1970s setting recreated with evident relish.

Quatre etoiles.

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