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By Frances Taylor • March 10th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Optimum Releasing 

Release date: October 10th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 103 minutes

Country of origin: France
Original language: French and English with English subtitles

Writer and director: Francois Ozon

Cast: Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard

Is it ironic that on the way to see Potiche, a film based around an umbrella factory, I was really badly caught in the rain, sans impermeable? I’m not sure either, but this film was exactly what I needed to dry off my dress and feel better about myself and the world.

Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve) spends her days jogging in a matching Adidas tracksuit, writing poetry, and pottering around her home and garden. A kept woman after her husband took over the running of the family’s umbrella factory, she has been denied a place in the sleazy nightclub Badaboum, a place in her own kitchen, or any opinions of her own.


When her disgruntled, misogynistic boor of a husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) is taken hostage at the factory and consequently suffers heart conditions, Suzanne takes the reins of the business with the help of union leader and ex-lover Maurice (Gerard Depardieu), and her children Joelle and Laurent (Judith Godreche and Jeremie Renier). Given the chance to shine, she radiates.

But as Robert recovers, the utopia of the factory, and Suzanne’s new life, is threatened.

The on-screen chemistry between Suzanne and Maurice is believable (Potiche being the seventh pairing of Depardieu and Deneuve). Maurice is like a big communist bear, a hopeless romantic, heavy from the weight of the people. Their burgeoning friendship is sweet, and touching.

Robert goes from the Big Bad to a diminished character which we almost pity. He kept his life in check by shouting at it, and once he loses that control, he loses everything.

Joelle and Laurent are well cast too, balancing out their parents, adding humour, and filling out the aspects of opinion in the film, pitting capitalism against idealism. The never-present Jean-Charles looms ominously, giving another aspect of family life, illustrating how powerful a man can be.


The awkward working-aquaintence between Suzanne and Nadege (Karin Viard) flourishes into a real friendship, with Nadege proclaiming that Suzanne turned her into a “real” woman. The dynamics between the characters add depth and humour, but also portray the very real political divides in France in 1977.

The issues remain topical today too, in France as well as internationally. Whilst the workers are striking for higher wages, Sarkozy said none too recently that French workers should “work more to earn more”. Women are still frowned upon for having multiple partners, many are still not taken seriously in the workplace. If your parents were unfaithful, then it is possible that you too could be dating your own illegitimate brother or sister. Poor Laurent.

Ozon faces feminism, ageism, sexism and infidelity head on, showing us that they can all be overcome if we want them to be. He deals with everything with a lightness of touch, deriving humour from the emasculation of Robert, to two squirrels copulating in the garden, to Nadege batting away Robert’s advances, to Suzanne’s coy smile as she hitchhikes back into town with a truck driver. Saucy. When I’m sixty or so, I want to be her, right down to the hairnet and Adidas track pants, being called a ‘bourgeois nymphomaniac’ whilst lording it over everyone in my swanky office.


Teaming purple sofas with brown and yellow wallpaper against the backdrop of Joelle’s Farrah Fawcett flicks, the mise en scene is gloriously camp and over-the-top. An adaptation of the 1980s stage play, Potiche still retains something quite theatrical, some akin to a soap opera perhaps. Characters gather in groups and neat lines, huddling around staircases, exquisitely choreographed, the music swells and fades. The music is hilarious, very 70s; it illuminates the atmosphere of the film and Laurent’s tight pants.

Potiche is like a giant sundae. Perhaps too sickly to eat every day, or for some people at all, but when the mood takes you, you get carried away in the sugar and it’s just the treat you need. It’s uplifting and gives hope for the future, provides many big laughs and is just delightful.

Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor

Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).

When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.

She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.

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