The opening title card of François Ozon's 1977-set Potiche seems to take design inspiration from the exploitation films of that period--a sneaky-smart way of nodding to one of this pastel-colored political farce's key topics, if not its stylistic mode.
As Suzanne, Catherine Deneuve plays the title role, which translates as "trophy wife." She is married to the smarmy, unfaithful Robert (Fabrice Luchini), whose primary attraction to Suzanne appears to have been motivated by the umbrella factory she inherited from her father, which Robert now controls with cold capitalist efficiency.
Still lovely at sixtysomething, Suzanne is cheerfully resigned to
serving her husband and living passively in his shadow ("Your job is to
share my opinion," he condescends). When Robert has a heart attack
precipitated by a workers' strike, he presumes his wife will be a
better-coifed mouthpiece for his own managerial ideology and allows her
to take over the factory while he convalesces.
Seeking counsel from
Babin (Gérard Depardieu), a local lefty pol and her long-ago lover,
Suzanne puts her womanly wiles to work, making broad improvements to the
business, while gradually, casually revealing that she never really let
her marriage hold her back at all. Like its heroine, Potiche is
deceptively lightweight, its camp screwball fizziness giving way to a
surprisingly cogent feminist parable, in which the personal proves again
and again to be the most volatile variable in the political. See the trailer below
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Potiche screens tonight through April 7 at Coral Gables Art Cinema (260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables). Visit gablescinema.com.