We gave it a B
Everything screams polyester ’70s in the playful French bauble Potiche, beginning with the red tracksuit worn in the opening scene by Catherine Deneuve, who plays a pampered, marginalized housewife named Suzanne Pujol. (The title roughly translates as ”trophy wife.”) Suzanne is out doing some light jogging near her big fancy house when we meet her. Although she puffs out the kind of whooshy exhalations of breath encouraged by trainers, the lady doesn’t break a sweat. That kind ? of thing would mess with her hair, which is in rollers and staked down by a kerchief.
There’s ticklish amusement in the sight of Deneuve — the grande French dame of international cinema, the enduring beauty whose visage was once the national symbol of France — going all retro while her chauvinist pig of a husband (French cinema stalwart Fabrice Luchini) paws his secretary at his umbrella factory. Eventually Suzanne steps in to run the company, solve labor disputes, and advance the causes of ’70s feminists, all while impeccably coiffed and dressed. She sings, too.
Adding to the movie’s (somewhat precious) we-remember-them-when playfulness, an Orson Welles-size Gérard Depardieu does gallant work as the town’s leftist mayor who carries a torch for the bourgeoise Suzanne years after their youthful tryst. To fully appreciate Potiche‘s various homages — as well as Ozon’s attention to color palette and musical mood — revisit Deneuve in the films of Jacques Demy, including Donkey Skin (1970) and especially his candy-colored 1960s musicals The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Umbrellas, get it? B