The French’s love for adultery and revolution reigns in the feminism farce Potiche.
In case you were wondering, “potiche” is a French word which literally mean “flower vase”, but can also be used to demean a house wife as useless, and in director Francois Ozone’s latest film it is a offensive word indeed. Here Ozone reunites with his 8 Women star Catherine Deneuve who plays the title role, or more accurately Suzanne Pujol.
We first meet Suzanne while she is power walking across a picturesque field, complete in red jogging suit and hair in curls. The year is 1977 and this will be the highlight of her day, not due to lack of interest but because women and work just did not mingle.
Instantly Ozone sets the tone for his film: this is farce, albeit with a stern social-political message. The dialogue is full of wit and often delivered with sharp authority. Problem is the mouths from which they are uttered.
This is felt in the opening exchanges between Suzanne and her husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini). As the man of the house, Robert is in charge of Suzanne’s late father’s umbrella factory, which he rules with an iron hand to such a degree that the workers have begun industrial action.
With Deneuve playing the heroic feminist, it is only natural that Luchini play the villainous male chauvinist, and he does so with pin point scumbag precision.
When a heart attack leaves Robert on the sidelines, it is up to Suzanne to step up and run the company, which she does with reason, innovation and style. Even her children, one a sexually curious designer (Jeremie Renier) and the other daddy’s little girl (Judith Godreche), begin to look up to her as an independent woman and not a trophy house wife.
Soon this dysfunctional family are torn apart when Suzanne and Robert become bitter rivals. Complicating things is the intervention of union leader Maurice (Gerard Depardieu in his second film this year). Both he and Suzanne have a past which is reignited, and it is fun to see Deneuve and Depardieu interact with one another. A scene where they embark in some disco dancing is especially fun.
Yet from such frolics comes the question of character, namely how can we cheer for the “potiche” when the “potiche” is no better than the “cheating male” caricature presented in this film?
According to Ozone, a woman’s deceit is justified, because, well, she is a woman. Which of course is BS, yet such are the ways of feminism, perhaps the most hypocritical of social movements to disgrace the western world. Couple that with the French’s flimsy take on marriage morality, and Potiche is the worst kind of Euro bred, left wing politico piece.
Potiche began on a good note. Its morality felt righteous, and at the forefront was a woman of honour and integrity. By the time the end credits role there is little to recommend, expect maybe to change the film’s title from Potiche to “salope”. You can look that one up yourself.