Potiche was one of the films I watched at the Dallas International Film Festival earlier this month. Starring the great Catherine Deneuve and directed by François Ozon, Potiche is my idea of a French Chick Flick. In French, a potiche is a pretty vase or decorative object of little value and no real practical use. It is also the slang expression for a ‘trophy wife‘, a woman who is just eye candy, living in the shadow of her husband and o doesn’t have any identity of her own.
The Plot of Potiche
Set in 1977 in a provincial French town, Potiche is a comedy about Madame Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve), a submissive housebound ‘trophy wife’ who is married to Robert Pujol, her wealthy, tyrannical and unfaithful husband. Monsieur Pujol is the president of an umbrella factory where he treats his employees just as bas as he treats his wife. Fed up with working conditions, the workers go on strike and take him hostage.
Madame Pujol surprises everyone, especially her husband when she reaches out to a ‘friend’ from the past to help negotiate her husband’s release. Gérard Depardieu plays a former union leader and Suzanne’s ex-beau who still holds a flame for her. The ordeal of being a hostage and being released with the aid of his mortal enemy is too much for M Pujol to bear. He has a heart attack. His doctor recommends a restful cruise to calm his nerves.
In his absence, Susanne takes over the operation of the umbrella factory and proves herself a competent and assertive business woman. Deneuve is wonderful in Potiche, as a woman who reveals her hidden talents and a few of her long hidden secrets and comes out on top. She is not the useless decorative object or trophy wife she appears to be.
Acclaimed writer-director François Ozon (“Swimming Pool,” “Under the Sand,” “Time to Leave,”) who had previously directed Ms. Deneuve in the international hit “8 Women”, creates a satirical and hilarious take on the war between the sexes and classes. He also faithfully recreates the feel of the late 1970’s with the fashions, hairstyles and even popular french music from the period.
Check Fandango or your local theater for a release date for Potiche.