French actress Catherine Deneuve has never been terribly hip, thank God, but she has been consistent in popping up on the big screen year in and year out. But her career did go through a period of slouching as Deneuve seemed to be lining up one uninspiring movie role after another in the last decade. There were some courageous choices, such as Je Veux Voir, a documentary in which she travels to the parts of Southern Lebanon that were the hardest hit during the brief war of 2006–she is shown taking in the sights in various painfully quiet close-ups–and more conventional ones such such as Arnaud Desplechin’s A christmas tale (2008) in which Deneuve played a cancer-struck mother hosting her family during Christmas, tearful rivalries and all.
Both films were shown in Cannes, as are most of Deneuve’s films, and she always comes to the Southern town to lend her support, equally comfortable as she is working the red carpet as she is amiable towards star-struck journalists asking naïve questions during press luncheons.
In Marjane Satrapi’s animated movie Persepolis based on the namesake novel, Deneuve lent her voice to the heavy-metal chick’s mother in a story based in 1979 Iran, during the Islamic revolution that shook the country to its core.
Then, very recently, controversy of the purely comical kind came a-knockin’ following in the footsteps of filmmaker Francois Ozon. The film was named Potiche and Deneuve hasn’t had this much fun in a while playing a role that nowadays is considered as un-PC as they come.
The iconic actress got out of her comfort zone, but this time she had a blast of it.
Set in 1977 in the French suburbs, Potiche is adapted from the 1970s eponymous hit comic play. To your left, admire the film set’s accurate and magnificent design; to your right, a 1970s family with rivalries, jealousies, and a hard-working father and husband with a short fuse (played by Fabrice Lucchini).
Deneuve plays Suzanne Pujol, a submissive trophy wife (or “potiche,”) who has to step in to manage her dictatorial husband’s umbrella factory after workers go on strike and take him hostage. To everyone’s surprise, Suzanne proves herself a competent and assertive woman of action. But when her husband returns from a restful cruise in top form, things get complicated. Gérard Depardieu plays a former union leader and ex-boyfriend to Suzanne—one who’s not completely over their relationship. Ozon (Swimming Pool, Under the Sand, Time to Leave,) who previously directed Deneuve in 8 Women, turns the original on its head to create his own uproarious version of the war between the sexes and classes.
(see our INTERVIEW of Catherine Deneuve)