“As a movie goer, I have to say that I love comedies. I love seeing the energy of the actors and I just love comedy because life is not funny enough,” French actress – and icon – Catherine Deneuve said with a beaming smile Monday afternoon in Toronto. She is starring in director Francois Ozon’s latest, “Potiche,” screening here as a Gala.
Set in a small French town in 1977, Deneuve plays Suzanne Pujol, a trophy wife who is seen but not heard. Her husband, Robert (Fabrice Luchini) manages her family business, though its fortunes are spiraling downward. All hell breaks loose when the workers at the factory go on strike and Robert suffers a heart attack.
Suzanne steps in to run the company and gets help from her former boyfriend, Maurice Babin (Gerard Depardieu), who is also the town mayor. At first, the employees consider her a joke, but she quickly improves conditions and wins admiration. Soon, nobody wants her husband to come back, but Robert has designs to seize back power.
“I think after the movie starts, it becomes less and less like a period piece,” said actress Judith Godreche who plays Deneuve’s daughter and sports a Farrah Fawcett coif in the movie. Based on a play written by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy, Ozon decided to maintain the time period instead of setting it in contemporary France. “I think it was important to keep in the ’70s to keep that removal,” said Ozon. “Also in France today, we don’t have the same sense of humor as during that period.”
“I knew the actors and I was familiar with the play and when [Ozon] came to me I said, ‘yes’ immediately because I wanted to do a comedy. In France there are not a lot of directors who do comedies,” said Deneuve who added that shooting “Potiche” was “a lot of fun.”
The production side wasn’t completely without its drama, however. At the beginning of shooting, Depardieu had a slight meltdown one day, but the onset energy quickly recovered.
“It was a pleasure to see Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu together. The first day of shooting wasn’t so great through. Gerard I think had had a few drinks and he got frustrated and walked off the set, but later he saw the footage and saw the energy there which was great.”
“Girdard can be vulgar, but in a poetic way,” added Godreche. “He’ a bit like a child but whatever he does it’s pretty harmless. When I work with him, it’s sometimes hard to actually do work because you’re constantly laughing.”