Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Potiche (2010)



The French have always been good at making quirky, zany films (Amélie, The Science of Sleep, Belleville Rendezvous; to name but a few) and now we should add Potiche to this eccentric list. In French, a Potiche is literally a vase, but is also used in reference to a trophy wife, which is exactly what Catherine Deneuve’s character is. Her husband Robert Puyol (Fabrice Luchini) always talks down to his wife Suzanne (Deneuve), and doesn't value her opinion at all. He runs an umbrella factory, though he is a very unforgiving employer. When his workforce strike, they manage to take him hostage, which ultimately results in him having a heart attack. While he is recovering, the only logical replacement is Suzanne. Of course it turns out that Suzanne is a great boss, and with help from the local mayor Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu) she instills confidence and encourages creativity in the workplace. When Monsieur Puyol finally recovers and comes back to work, he buys out his wife’s shares so that he can control the company again; but that doesn’t stop the Potiche: now she’ll run for mayor!

Catherine Deneuve is consistently great throughout, whether she is composing poems about squirrels, shouting at her overbearing husband, talking candidly with factory workers or dancing with Gérard Depardieu. Gérard is his usual effortlessly charming self, though he must be in competition with Richard Griffiths to see who can become as huge as possible. The rest of the cast fit around the main characters perfectly, creating a wonderful, believable world. I did love the way that the umbrellas were made in the factory; very reminiscent of the doors in Monsters Inc! This is a great, very charming, quirky film, that you can easily lose yourself in; but nevertheless gives an indication of some of the sexual discrimination that women had to deal with in the 70s and 80s.