Saturday, April 30, 2011

Potiche (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


   Francois Ozon's new movie is a light comic farce, based on a play that owes a debt to Colin Higgins' "9 to 5". It stars the legendary Catherine Deneuve as a so called trophy wife, Mrs Pujol who wants to be more. From the very beginning, "Potiche" is as light as a croissant but is  a joy to see   Deneuve.  
   Fabrice Puchini plays Robert Pujol, a chauvinist umbrella manufacturer. Puchini with his bourgeoisie looks and unabashed sexism is a dead ringer for Dabney Coleman in his 1980 role. Mr. Pujol will do whatever he can to keep his wife submissive. She writes poetry and thinks sensual thoughts. When Mr. Pujol is under attack from his union workers, he has a heart attack and is saved by his socialist rival, Maurice Babin (Gerard Depardieu).
   Babin convinces Mrs. Pujol to head the company in Mr. Pujol's absence. What follows is a light comedy that details the ever increasing frustration of the husband and the vanquishing of his power and ego. We see Mr. Pujol reduced to jelly and then  realize what was obvious. Male power is outdated and often a myth. It is the female that holds the real omnipotence in a relationship. Aha! 
   This is not an new idea. But it is amusing to see a cuddly soft Depardieu trade gentle Cary Grant barbs with Deneuve. Depardieu in his later years parallels the great Robert De Niro: once edgy and volatile, now cute and humorous. In a word, pleasant. For some this might be sacrilege, but these actors are so iconic in French cinema that they still manage to hold the eye. 
   This movie will not make waves or change your thoughts. In fact, it is very much like a Oui magazine on film. Yet Deneuve and Depardieu have a kind of prickly soft chemistry between them and they are both easy on the eyes. Ozon has said that this movie started in part, as a comment on Nicolas Sarkozy. I admit, it  might have been more entertaining to lampoon Silvio Berlusconi. More truthfully though, "Potiche"  is an  valentine trifle to 1979 with all its sensual buffoonery and disco innocence. And  with today's economic worry and political polarization, who can blame Ozon for going back to a more dated time of Pop Art, pleasure and the battle of the sexes?  

Write Ian at

No comments: