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French legends shine in Potiche 

A Continental cousin to those plucky British comedies in which working-class peons struggle against their bourgeois employers (latest example: Made in Dagenham), the French romp Potiche is primarily an excuse for audiences to once again spend quality time with those two titans of Gallic cinema, Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu. Teaming up for the umpteenth time, the pair remain graceful in shared banter and spiritual chemistry if not exactly in physical terms (Depardieu's gigantic girth leaves me worried for his continuing health).

Set in 1977, this finds Deneuve cast as Suzanne Pujol, the trophy housewife of a right-wing chauvinist (Fabrice Luchini's Robert Pujol) who's tyrannically running her late father's umbrella factory into the ground. With the prodding of the town's Communist mayor, Maurice Babin (Depardieu), the workers go on strike to demand better hours and better wages, a protest that eventually leads to the agitated Robert being confined to bed rest for a lengthy period of time. As someone is required to take over running the factory, Suzanne ends up assuming the position. Yet unlike her dictatorial husband, the increasingly assertive Suzanne is willing to talk, listen and make compromises, and before long, the factory is far more successful in her progressive hands than it ever was under Robert's fascistic fist.

Adapting a play originally penned during that era, writer-director François Ozon (who previously worked with Deneuve on 8 Women) has made a film that is only lightly interested in tackling any major sociopolitical issues. True, the story charts Suzanne's rise from submissive housewife to freethinking feminist, but Ozon's top priority is making sure everyone is having a breezy time both up on the screen and in the audience. Luchini's sputtering provides some comedic madcap elements, Judith Godreche and Jeremie Renier offer an easygoing contrast as the Pujols' grown children (she's conservative, he's artistic), and Ozon himself serves up some nice visual touches (dig that fuzzy phone!). As for Deneuve and Depardieu, their willingness to just show up on the set and allow themselves to be filmed is reward enough, methinks.

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