22 June 2011

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Potiche (Trophy Wife) is the story of Suzanne (Catherine Deneuve), an agreeable housewife and self-proclaimed ‘queen of kitchen appliances’, who has to take over the reigns of the family factory when the workers strike and take her tyrant capitalist husband hostage.  She gets the local communist mayor and secret lover, Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu), to help get the workers back on her side but it soon gets complicated when he realizes that he still holds a spark for her. Directed by François Ozon, Potiche is a satirical comedy with a political edge and a splash of 1970’s sex.
 

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The film has an opening scene which just makes you smile…. summer-day music, sun-drenched trees and rabbits getting up to no good. It is the calm before the storm as Suzanne jogs through the woods in the most amazingly hip Adidas tracksuit (very Royal Tenenbaums). The aesthetics of the 1970s run right through the film as it is splashed with bright colours, clothes and patterns and the factory looks like it could be the umbrella version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, well at least on the inside. What really gives the film its punch though is that none of this 1970s upper-class lifestyle is quite what it seems on the surface. As the film develops, the relationships are full of interesting twists, which you wouldn’t expect from a demure ‘Potiche’.
 

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My personal highlight has to be Catherine Deneuve’s heart-warming performance as Suzanne. The last film I saw her in was Roman Polanski’s Replusion as part of the Film and Philosophy course, which of course, is very different from Potiche (more stabbings, less pretty umbrellas). A great Deneuve moment in this film is when she and Depardieu get-on-down on a light up disco floor in the underground club, the Badaboum.  It’s already on YouTube if you want a sneak preview. How Orzon managed to get the French heavyweights of cinema to do this, I do not know, but I thank him!
 

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Potiche probably is a bit longer than it should have been with a very very strange last scene but an absolute must see if only because of it’s relevance to these conservative political times and also for the fantastic 1970’s wardrobes. It’s also very funny.
 

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Potiche is currently screening at FACT. You can buy tickets online here, in person at the Box Office, or by calling 0871 902 5737.

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