We Celebrate the Ice Queen of French Cinema With a Review of "Potiche"

The French movie star and style dykon, Catherine Deneuve, receives tribute this March.

We Celebrate the Ice Queen of French Cinema With a Review of "Potiche"
Photo: ourtesy of Music Box Films

I do not know of many 67-year-old actresses who top the list of lesbian cinemagoers' fantasies (Helen Mirren aside), but the impossibly regal-looking Catherine Deneuve has long held top honor. And unlike Helen Mirren, who has never, to our knowledge, played a lesbian (the butch-ish Jane Tennyson of Prime Suspect doesn't count), Catherine Deneuve has appeared in numerous films in which she displays lesbian tendencies, or contributes to a storyline with gay or lesbian themes.

The Hunger is still the most unbeatable lesbian vampire cinematic redux. Belle De Jour, The Last Metro, Indochine and The Convent are all worth viewing and in 8 Women, directed by Francois Ozon, you can treat yourself to the spectacle of Deneuve getting it on with the other goddess of French cinema, Fanny Ardant.

 Also directed by Francois Ozon is the new French feature, Potiche (Trophy Wife). There's nothing much lesbian about it, but this charming tale of a cosseted French housewife, Suzanne, who takes over her tyrannical husband's umbrella factory and meets the requests of its mutinous employees, is a tale of feminist awakening—it's a war of the classes, and the sexes. How very French!

Set in 1977, the fashions and decor provide a campy and kitschy eyeful, but Deneuve manages to look fabulous, as usual. Her disco date with fellow French cinema icon, Gérard Depardieu, (who plays a heavy-set union leader) is delightful. And the message is good: To everyone’s surprise (but not ours), Suzanne proves herself to be a competent and humane boss, a talented businesswoman, and eventually, a community leader and the kind of charismatic and fair-minded local politician every small town yearns for—Sarah Palin in reverse. Acclaimed writer-director Francois Ozon (the erotic Swimming Pool and the brilliant Under the Sand) previously directed Deneuve in the aforementioned 8 Women, and clearly adores his idol as much as we do.

If you're in New York City this March, you may want to head to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (bam.org) to hear Deneuve speak about the film, and the enjoy a retrospective of Deneuve classics, including Repulsion. Or look out for Potiche at your local cinema. It's in limited release in March.

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