Blu-Ray Review: Catherine Deneuve Anchors Great Cast of ‘Potiche’

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CHICAGO – Francois Ozon is one of my favorite working filmmakers. Sure, he misses his mark sometimes, but even when he does so it is with often-fascinating results. “Angel” and “Ricky” may not stand up to “8 Women” or “Swimming Pool,” but they’re still fascinating missteps with worthwhile elements. The good news is that “Potiche,” recently relesed on Blu-ray and DVD, is the writer/director’s best since his international breakthrough with “Pool.” It couldn’t be more different than that thriller but I think that’s another reason I value Ozon — you never quite what to expect. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

What the entire Ozon ouevre has in common, even his lesser films, is the stamp of a man who loves cinema. He adores the details, down to the incredible costumes in even the most fleeting flashback scene in “Potiche,” to the fact that one can tell he simply relished the concept of having two of his country’s most legendary actors in lead roles. Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu are living legends and they both do some of the best work they’ve done in years in this clever, fun commentary on the changing role of women in ’70s France.

Deneuve plays the title character — “Potiche” translates roughly to “trophy wife” — Suzanne Pujol, husband of a notorious and successful businessman. Her cheating, abrasive, obnoxious husband (Fabrice Luchini) is loathed by his employees to the point that they take him hostage so he will meet their demands. The mounting pressure gets to Mr. Pujol and Suzanne must take over the company or risk it going under completely. Much to everyone’s surprise — and with the help of an old flame who is now a union leader (Depardieu) — Mrs. Pujol turns to be much more than a “Potiche.”

Photo credit: Music Box Films

“Potiche” is definitely a light dramedy but it also has some interesting undercurrents about the changing roles of women in business in the ’70s. Note how Mr. Pujol’s mistress (the great Karin Viard) becomes more assertive with a female boss instead of one who purely sees her as a sex object. “Potiche” works on multiple levels — as social commentary, period piece, feminist statement, comedy of errors, and, most of all, as an actor’s showcase. Everyone here is great and no one shines more brightly than the timeless Deneuve, one of the best actresses that ever live proving yet again why she deserves that title. This is one of the best foreign films of 2011 to date.

“Set in 1977 in a provincial French town, Potiche is a witty and charming comedy starring Catherine Deneuve as Suzanne Pujol, a housebound ‘trophy housewife’ (or “potiche”) who steps in to manage the umbrella factory run by her tyrannical husband (Fabrice Luchini) after the workers go on strike. To everyone’s surprise, Suzanne proves herself a competent and assertive woman of action. Gérard Depardieu plays a union leader and Suzanne’s ex-beau who still holds a flame for her. With Potiche, acclaimed writer-director François Ozon (Swimming Pool, 8 Women) has created a satirical and hilarious take on the war between the sexes and classes.”

Special Features
o Making of Potiche
o Theatrical Trailer
o ’70s Trailer
o Costume Tests

“Potiche” stars Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard, Judith Godreche, and Jeremie Renier. It was written and directed by Francois Ozon. It was released by Music Box Films on DVD and Blu-ray on July 19th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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