Potiche, literally translates as a decorative vase. It's slang for “trophy wife” and that description fits Suzanne (Catherine Deneuve), married to Robert (Fabrice Luchini), owner of an umbrella-manufacturing company in 1977. In fact the business is her inheritance, but she lets him run it. They have two adult children, Joëlle (Judith Godrèche) and Laurent (Jérémie Renier). When Suzanne's philandering husband suffers a heart attack during a workers's strike, she takes over the running of the factory and proves herself adept at the job. But when her husband returns from his sick leave, things become more complicated. A further distraction is the left-wing mayor Maurice Babin (Gérard Depardieu) who happens to be an old flame of hers.
François Ozon has had a prolific career, most of his films so far reaching British cinema screens. Every now and again, he makes a film like Potiche, less serious, more quirky, a kind of light relief to some of his other films which deal with subjects like bereavement, terminal illness or marital breakdown. Like 8 Women and Water Drops on Burning Rocks, it's an adaptation of a stage play, in this case a popular comedy by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy. Ozon's approach, as in 8 Women is to make the play work as cinema but not to disguise its theatricality too much: there's something just a little arch about the heightened colours, the recreation of 1977 fashions, not to mention the 1977 music you hear on the soundtrack.
Certainly star power helps this a lot. This is Deneuve and Depardieu's eighth film together, and their chemistry is self-evident. They're backed up by a strong supporting cast, many listed above but also including Karin Viard as Nadège, Robert's secretary and sometime mistress.
While it's certainly very entertaining, and smuggles in themes about sexual roles just under the surface, I'm not convinced that Potiche will be the most lasting of Ozon's films. It's expertly put together and with plenty to charm its audience, particularly one who has grown up watching its two stars in other films over the last few decades, it's ultimately insubstantial, and a second viewing doesn't really benefit it.
Optimum's two-disc DVD set is encoded for Region 2 only. It begins with trailers for The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, L'amour fou and The Princess of Montpensier, but these can be skipped.
The DVD transfer is in the ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphically enhanced. Colours are bright and vivid – capturing all that Seventies fashion and décor – and blacks are strong. Pretty much what you'd have a right to expect from a DVD transfer of a new film, and nothing to complain about.
There are two soundtrack options: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround (2.0). There frankly isn't a great deal to choose between the two of them, as this is very much a dialogue-driven film, with the surrounds mostly being used for the music score. English subtitles are fixed.
The extras on disc one comprise some outtakes (21:20), costume tests for the characters of Suzanne, Nadège, Laurent and Robert (5:44) and a teaser trailer (2:12).
Disc Two is single-layered. It begins with a feature-length making-of documentary (72:02). This is a little different from other making-ofs, as there are no interviews with the cast or crew, just an hour and a quarter of fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes footage, presented in chronological order from first shooting day to last. Amongst other things, it shows how much of a dominating presence Depardieu is on set. We also see one of the less usual demands on the special effects department, namely how to produce the mating rabbits we see near the beginning of the film.
Yhe disc is completed by two interviews produced for the UK edition, with Catherine Deneuve (3:36) and François Ozon (7:43), both shot against a copy of the British quad poster and both speaking in English. The interviews follow the usual format with text questions appearing on screen, followed by the interviewee's answer.