Monday, May 06, 2013
Based on the play by Pierre Barillett and Jean-Pierre Gredy, Potiche is the story about a trophy wife who takes over her husband’s umbrella factory following a worker’s strike as she hopes to improve things for everyone despite her family’s misgivings. Written for the screen and directed by Francois Ozon, the film explores a woman trying to find meaning in her life as she feels underestimated by her own family. Starring Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Jeremie Renier, Karin Viard, Evelyne Dandry, and Judith Godreche. Potiche is a stylish and light-hearted comedy from Francois Ozon.
In the 1970s where women are striving for equality in their roles, the film is about a trophy wife whose husband is a tyrannical boss of an umbrella factory where a worker‘s strike forces the wife to take over and change things. With the help of an old lover, she becomes a figure of hope for her small community as well as giving voice to the women around her world much to the chagrin of her husband who is striving to regain his role. It’s a film that plays into a world where a woman who enjoys being a caretaker of sorts until she is asked by a local mayor/former lover to handle a strike that could destroy the town. While her family and her husband don’t think she could handle all of that responsibility, she decides to disprove that in order to reveal why she should never be underestimated.
Francois Ozon’s screenplay definitely plays into the role of women in a crucial period in time where they’re demanding to have the same kind of equality in men. While Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve) seems to enjoy the role of being a trophy housewife, she is unable to deal with lack of her respect her husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) treats her while her adult children in Joelle (Judith Godreche) and Laurent (Jeremie Renier) dismiss her opinions. When she is asked by the town’s mayor Maurice Babin (Gerard Depardieu) who is also a union leader, she does so as she improves things where Joelle and Laurent help her as does Robert’s secretary Nadge (Karin Viard) who decides to break off her affair with Robert. While there is a bit of a subplot involving Suzanne and Maurice’s old relationship as the latter still carries a torch for her, it does play into Suzanne’s growth as a character. Even in the third act where her husband’s return to the factory would have her do something that would define her more as a powerful woman.
Ozon’s direction definitely plays to a certain style that recalls some of the films of the 1970s where he aims for something that is very light-hearted and humorous. Notably in the comedy as it’s more subtle than slapstick as well as using flashbacks to express the youth that Suzanne has as well as the mystery about whether Laurent is really Robert’s son. There are also moments where Ozon just keep things simple in the compositions as well as some montages that play up the development of Suzanne’s life. There are also moments where Ozon uses TV stock footage to play up the sense of the times as it would upset Robert as he strives to regain some control. While it’s third act is a bit more dramatic in terms of what Robert does to regain his control, it does pick up the mood when Suzanne makes a decision that will show her growth as a woman. Overall, Ozon creates a very fascinating and delightful film about a woman’s desire for respect.
Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux does great work with the film‘s very stylish and colorful cinematography from the lush look of the film‘s daytime exteriors to the lighting in some of the film‘s interiors including the nightclub Suzanne and Maurice attend. Editor Laure Gardette does excellent work with the editing with the use of split-screens and montages along with rhythmic flairs to play up some of the humor and drama. Production designer Katia Wyszkop does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the umbrella factory’s interiors to the Pujol home and the design of the umbrellas.
Costume designer Pascaline Chavanne does fantastic work with the costumes as it all plays to a particular sense of style of the times including the dresses that Suzanne wears. The sound work of Benoit Gargonne, Jean-Paul Hurier, and Pascal Jasmes is wonderful for the atmosphere that is created in the house and clubs along with some of the scenes at the town. The film’s music by Philippe Rombi is brilliant for its playful yet serene orchestral music that captures the sense of romance as well as some of its humor. The soundtrack consists largely of French disco music including the Bee Gees and a song sung by Catherine Deneuve.
The casting by Sarah Teper and Michael De Nijs is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Evelyne Dandry as Suzanne’s sister, French pop singer Elodie Frege as the young Suzanne in the flashback scenes, and Sergi Lopez as a Spanish truck driver Suzanne gets a ride from late in the film. Karin Viard is wonderful as the secretary Nadge as she starts off as Robert’s mistress to a woman who takes control of her role as she becomes an ally of Suzanne. Judith Godreche is terrific as Joelle as a woman who is unsure about her mother taking over the business as she becomes conflicted over her loyalties. Jeremie Renier is excellent as Laurent as the son who also feels unappreciated by his father as he joins his mother where he helps give ideas into helping the business.
Fabrice Luchini is great as the very cruel and conniving Robert Pujol as a man who has little respect for people including his worker and his family as he struggles to regain control through schemes. Gerard Depardieu is marvelous as Maurice Babin as a union leader and local political figure who helps out Suzanne to stop the strikes while dealing with his own feelings towards her. Finally, there’s Catherine Deneuve in a delightful performance as Suzanne Pujol as a woman who feels unappreciated and underestimated by those around her as she is eager to prove herself that she isn’t some trophy housewife. Deneuve also displays some subtle moments of humor to showcase her very lively personality as it’s definitely one of best performances of her remarkable career.
Potiche is an extraordinary and splendid comedy from Francois Ozon led by the brilliant performance of Catherine Deneuve. Along with a wonderfully stylish look and a terrific supporting cast led by Gerard Depardieu. It’s a film that is very playful and witty while creating heartfelt message about the empowerment of women. In the end, Potiche is a marvelous film from Francois Ozon.
Francois Ozon Films: See the Sea - Sitcom -Criminal Lovers -Water Drops on Burning Rocks - Under the Sand - 8 Women - Swimming Pool - 5x2 - Time to Leave - Angel (2007 film) - Ricky - The Refuge - In the House - Jeune & Jolie - (The New Girlfriend) - The Auteurs #33: Francois Ozon
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