Review: 'Potiche' Sweet on Old-Fashioned Feminism

Article excerpt

"Potiche" is a frothy French confection, a sort of "ile flottante" of movies. It's also a headscratcher: How did a movie this stubbornly old-fashioned ever get made by such a trendy French director as Francois Ozon ("8 Women," "Swimming Pool")? The film is not only set in 1977, there is nothing in it that doesn't feel as if the film itself was made in 1977. Even its central feminism is of a kind that now seems quaint. Catherine Deneuve is the potiche a" French literally for a fancy vase on a shelf, but idiomatically a trophy wife a" who is married to an unbearably reactionary boss of an umbrella factory. She thinks she is happy, or rather, she doesn't really think about it, as servants cook their food and clean their house. She writes dippy little poems in a pocket notebook. When the factory workers go on strike, kidnap the boss (Fabrice Luchini) and he has a heart attack, Deneuve is pegged to stand in for him while he recovers. He thinks she is a safe choice who will say nothing and do nothing till he gets back. Of course, she turns out to be an excellent plant manager, who solves the strike and makes the employees happier while improving productivity. …