Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA 2011
The 16th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and Unifrance's celebrated annual showcase of the best in contemporary French film, hits screens at The Film Society, IFC Center, FIAF and BAMcinematek, March 3-13. A wide selection of titles will be showcased during the series - all in their New York premieres - including films from Catherine Breillat, Francois Ozon, Bertrand Tavernier, Benoit Jacquot, Claude Lelouch, Eric Lartigua and the final film from the late Alain Corneau.
Opening Night launches with Francois Ozon's Potiche (Trophy Wife), which will have its New York premiere. This film was nominated for four Cesars, and was a bona fide critical and box office hit in France. Francois Ozon's new comedy reunites French cinema legends Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu and is about a submissive, household 'trophy wife' (or "potiche") who steps in to manage her wealthy husband's lucrative umbrella factory after the workers go on strike and take him hostage.
Other highlights at this year's festival include: "A Conversation with Claude Lelouch" and a tribute to the late Alain Corneau, a winner of the Palme d'Or and Academy Award for A Man And A Woman (Un Homme Et Une Femme). Corneau, known for his lush visual style, will discuss his career and latest release, What Love May Bring.
The tribute to Alain Corneau will feature the screening of his final film, Love Crime (Crime D'Amour), a delicious thriller of rivalry, seduction and humiliation set against office politics starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier as mentor and ingenue that results in murder.
Other notable films include; Mozart's Sister (Nannerl, la soeur de Mozart), Living Alone (D'amour et d'eau fraiche), The Big Picture (L'homme qui voulait vivre sa vie), Service Entrance (Les femmes du 6eme etage), Top Floor Left Wing (Dernier etage gauche gauche, Leila, Happy Few (Aimez QuiVous Voulez), Free Hands (Les mains libres), and Hands Up (Les mains en l'air).
For more information, call The Film Society of Lincoln Center at (212) 875-5601 www.filmlinc.com or visit www.rendezvouswithfrenchcinema.com.
MY REVIEW SELECTION
POTICHE (Trophy Wife)
Directed by: Francois Ozon
Running time: 103 min.
Release date: March 25, 2011
Genre: Comedy, Drama, and Adaptation in French with English subtitles
Distributor: Music Box Films
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Set in 1977 in a provincial French town, Potiche is a film based the 1970s eponymous hit comic play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy. This is a film about emancipation from emotional confinement that is experienced by a group of women.
Catherine Deneuve is Suzanne Pujol, a submissive housebound 'trophy housewife' ("potiche") who steps in to manage her wealthy and tyrannical husband Robert Pujol's (Fabrice Luchini) umbrella factory after the workers go on strike and take him hostage. To everyone's surprise, Suzanne proves herself a competent and assertive woman of action. But when her husband returns from a restful cruise in top form, things get complicated and she finds out that she has political aspirations. Gerard Depardieu plays Maurice Babin, a former union leader and Suzanne's ex-lover who still holds a flame for her.
The amusing plot has many characters that offer their own comedic situations. There is Robert's secretary Nadege (Karin Viard) who moonlights as his 'kept woman', yet finds her own independence once she works with Suzanne. Another interesting character is Suzanne's daughter Joelle (Judith Godreche) who like her father Robert is tyrannical and sides with everything he does. Yet, Laurent (Jeremie Renier) Robert and Suzanne's labor advocate son is pro women's rights.
Keeping the action in the 1970s, a lot of the film's fun stems from recreations of cliches from this nostalgic period like bellbottoms, psychedelic orange and the sexual revolution. Casting Catherine Deneuve as a trophy wife was brilliant. The stunning veteran actress gives the necessary depth for audience identification. She is earthy and makes situations real and creates empathy for her character. It's delightful to watch her change from a good little wife of a small town factory owner to a woman who gradually breaks free and undergoes a series of transformations .
Catherine Deneuve gives her audience an extra treat when she sings and dances in one of the scenes. Her husband Robert, portrayed by the multi-talented Fabrice Luchini, is a natural choice for this character. He displays a character who is the stereotypical 'pain in the neck' husband and boss. He masterfully projects a reactionary, dishonest and tyrannical with his workers and his loved ones. I found the secretary Nadege, played by Karin Viard, to be a real gem in this story. She really undergoes a change in life as the boss' other woman. This character transforms from someone whose job is just to make photocopies, to experiencing a real political awakening and liberation.
The flow of the film develops two veins. The first is a comedic and sentimental plot line which illustrates the old love between Suzanne and Maurice. The second plot oscillates between comedy and melodrama as Suzanne explores her relationships with her husband Robert and Maurice.
Potiche proves to be a fantastic dramedy. The film creates a satirical and hilarious take on the war between the sexes and classes in France.
FILM RATING (B+)