French Fancy: Potiche

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François Ozon’s latest film opens the 2011 Glasgow Film Festival

Only in its seventh year and supposedly the fastest growing film event in the UK, The Glasgow Film Festival caters to the punters, offering a variety of events and screenings to suit all ages and tastes. The eleven-day event kicked off on 17 February with a screening of Potiche, a “perfume scented romp” from director François Ozon. The setting was the marvellous Glasgow Film Theatre, the home to West coast cinephiles, and they even rolled out a humble, mud-stained red carpet to greet minor celebrities and sponsors.

Potiche is a fluffy, screwball comedy starring the wonderful Catherine Deneuve as Suzanne, a bored, trophy housewife in the sexist 70s. Her husband – played by the not so charismatic Fabrice Luchini – owns an umbrella factory, but after his workers tire of his tyranny and strike, he suffers a heart attack, leaving nobody but his wife Suzanne to take over the business and thus prove she has more intelligence and strength than her family believes. The film starts off with a few genuine yet forgettable laughs, and the costuming seems very on-trend for Spring/Summer 2011 thanks to the 70s styling. But as Suzanne’s husband collapsed on the floor, squirming and clutching his chest with his tongue wagging, this ridiculously unconvincing and clichéd portrayal of a sudden heart attack left me contemplating when the next glass of free fizz was due to arrive.

Gerard Depardieu makes an appearance as the long lost lover of Suzanne and he dominates the screen both with his likeable demeanour and larger than life frame. Despite sporting the most ludicrous hairstyle in film history, he is still very charming and delivers a performance both comedic and sweet. The plot is completely predictable and there is more than one cringe-worthy moment in which Depardieu and Deneuve sing and dance whilst looking somewhat embarrassed. I couldn’t help but long for the golden days when Deneuve could look drop-dead gorgeous, dripping with glamour and elegance, even whilst Luis Bunuel lobbed cow dung at her in Belle de Jour. That scene from Bunuel’s 60s surrealist drama provides a helpful summary of Potiche: it showcases the fabulous Deneuve and, unfortunately, it’s also full of bullshit.

It is interesting that the Glasgow Film Festival decided upon Potiche as its opening number. It may be a clever move on their part to exhibit a movie that is accessible to audiences unfamiliar with foreign language film, therefore encouraging festival virgins to get involved and expand their horizons. However, for the typical film festival fanatic, Potiche seems somewhat silly.

Had the Glasgow Film Festival team not delivered such a memorable and professionally executed after-party to accompany the screening, I would have left disappointed. Thankfully, the goody bags loaded with Urban Outfitters products, and the exotic free cocktails which continued to flow into the wee hours, made up for the underwhelming opening film. As the closing credits came to an end, the lighting changed dramatically. A bearded hipster DJ in a Breton top appeared next to some decks that somehow popped up from beneath the seats. Canapés were in circulation and champagne was being poured, resulting in a cosmopolitan bash that really demonstrated just how stylish, fun and glamorous Glasgow can be.

Ishbel Beeson

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