The opening night film for the World Cinema Showcase was the charming 70's set French film Potiche. Catherine Denevue is the trophy wife of the title, Suzanne Pujol. She seem content to run in the woodlands, meeting cute critters and composing short, almost kitschy, poems. Her weaselly bastard prick of a husband, Robert (Fabrice Luchini), runs the umbrella factory that once was run by Suzanne's father. As a boss he's as weaselly, bastardly and pricky as he is a husband and the workers are on strike! They are encouraged in this by the lefty Mayor MP (and brief one-time lover of Suzanne) Babin (Gerard Depardieu). Robert, who being the weaselly bastard prick that he is is having an affair with his secretary, heads down to the factory to sort these striking workers out. He's taken hostage and eventually has to be hospitalised, leaving Suzanne to step in and run the factory.
Suzanne, being lovely and kind and actually having a pretty keen mind behind the shell of her domesticated self, does a far better job of running the umbrella factory (and, of course it's umbrellas; it's Denevue!) than her husband ever did. She even brings their son and daughter into the business, where they both shine. She's no longer a mere trophy wife, she's a successful business-woman. The factory has never looked better, the workers have never been happier and things are generally looking up. And when her bastard husband returns, she is well prepared to give him the old heave-ho; personally and professionally.
The central performance from Denevue is fantastically charming. She takes Suzanne from somewhat dim-witted domesticity to powerful, yet compassionate, leader. Really, the film is a showcase for her and you can see why: beautiful, hilarious and a consummate performer Denevue has, thankfully, not faded a jot. Fabrice Luchini as her husband, Robert Pujol, is fantastically hateful as a schemey, weaselly bastard of a prick. The man has, quite literally, no redeeming features and I just wanted to punch his beard down his throat. But Luchini never feels like he's going over the top with the character; he plays Pujol as a spoiled child, demanding and wanting, wanting, wanting. And when things don't go his way, he pouts. He pouts and plots. Notably against (and later, with) Gerard Depardieu's man of the people Babin. Depardieu, as great as he is, just cannot hope to stand above the wonderful work from Denevue and Luchini.
It is a shame though that this had to be screened on digi-Beta, as this would have been a lush, wonderful experience on film. But sometimes these things just cannot be helped, as prints may not be able to be sourced or shipped. Cest la vie. But Potiche is a wonderful film full of charm, with plenty of twists and turns and a cheeky sense of humour. There is a legitimately wonderful central performance, surrounded by more than capable supporting turns. It touches on politics and women's rights but is, at it's heart, entertainment. Which is all summed up beautifully come the end with Denevue, post election campaign, serenading us out.