Tag Archives: Catherine Deneuve

Potiche: the umbrellas of farcitude

Potiche, directed by Francois Ozon and starring the reasonably legendary Catherine Deneuve, is a broad 1970s-set comedy in which the arrogant and manipulative director of an umbrella factory with serious staff relations problems is forced to recognise that his hitherto submissive trophy wife (or Potiche) is actually a great deal more talented and suited for positions of responsibility than he would ever have suspected. The film’s deliberately designed to look retro, with many of the standard 1970s signifiers being deployed (eye-watering wallpaper, big lapels, split-screen, the chunky font used for the credits), and it also plays like a throwback TV situation comedy a lot of the time, with simply drawn stock characters clashing melodramatically over domestic arrangements or working practices. Fabrice Luchini in the role of the monumentally unsympathetic philandering husband might as well have the words “I am a bastard” tattooed on his forehead. Fortunately the brash film-making style does seem to settle down as the story develops and by the time the man mountain of Gallic acting prowess that is Gerard Depardieu makes his seemingly inevitable appearance (he’s the local mayor, who goes back some way with Deneuve’s character) it’s all actually quite engaging. The film certainly displays a generosity of spirit and promotes a positive attitude of liberation and tolerance, and Deneuve is a class act throughout, redeeming several scenes that could easily have sunk into cliche by subtly underplaying. There are a couple of quite nice songs too.

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