Deux Par Ozon (Ricky, Potiche)

27 05 2017

Ever since his “Young & Beautiful” beguiled me at Cannes in 2013, I’ve been a fan of Francois Ozon’s peculiar blend of French cinema. His blend of camp and noir traditions provides for unconventionally satisfying watches in “Swimming Pool” and “In the House” – and, for something totally different, he made a stunningly classical film recently with “Frantz.” That’s not to say I find him perfect, though.

Potiche” (B-) casts icon of French cinema Catherine Deneuve in a role fitting of her status. As Suzanne Pujol, matriarch of a business-owning family, she often keeps her dysfunctional family functioning while receiving little credit. She’s the titular trophy wife (the literal English translation of “potiche”) in a late ’70s era when such was a high honor to which a woman aspired.

But out of necessity, she must step in to manage her husband Robert’s umbrella factory while he falls ill – and during a classic French workers’ strike, no less. Her feminine wiles turn out to be just what the doctor ordered for the factory, so much so that her temporary custodianship begins calcifying into a more permanent management. Her newfound purpose divides her families and galvanizes French society, then still in shock over a woman exerting such authority in the business world so openly and unabashedly.

“Potiche” is a mostly enjoyable romp, although it eventually begins to drag as Ozon hits the same notes on his satirical social commentary again and again. We get the point pretty early on about female empowerment in a patriarchal society, and it’s not exactly a novel idea. Still, the fun of Deneuve letting loose in classic Ozon style makes the film worth a watch.

Now, I have seen Ozon make a movie about a teenage girl who chooses to be a prostitute, a widower who changes gender identity, and two tales about an obfuscated boundary between fiction and reality. These have been exciting takes indeed, though neither promise the sheer spectacle of “Ricky” (D / ). The film quite literally features a baby that sprouts wings (that resemble the kinds you’d see on a Butterball turkey at the supermarket).

It’s told with no urgency, no energy and no vitality – an especially shocking thing to say regarding Ozon, whose films are usually zany expressions of his twisted desires. Every moment rings false and every scene feels phoned in. To call it melodrama implies that there might be a moment resembling dramatic tension. There isn’t.

In fact, the cherubic titular character isn’t even the focus, he’s just the means for the mother to realize herself – but Ozon doesn’t develop her enough for us to give a damn. It’s just a bizarre spectacle and a head-scratcher of the worst variety.





REVIEW: The Overnight

8 07 2015

The OvernightSome films revel in pushing boundaries and norms to expose the ridiculousness of those limitations.  Others, like “The Overnight,” simply dance on these taboos to milk them for cheap laughs.

Writer/director Patrick Brice is far too amused by impressionistic paintings of anal orifices, marijuana-induced hazes, and exaggerated prosthetic penises to interrogate the shackles of monogamy and parenthood.  (You get the feeling that Brice probably laughs until it hurts at the final scene of “Boogie Nights.”)  As a night of friendship blooming between two adult couples slowly devolves into something resembling a swingers party, it’s hard not to feel as uncomfortable as the guests played by Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling.

The end does ultimately show that the evening is a bit of a fantasy, one that can only take place while the kids are safely tucked away in bed.  But if Brice wanted to take this angle on the story, why not go all out with “Hangover“-style antics?  Something feels disingenuous about a tale concerning the loss of inhibitions and release of pent-up desires that is itself holding back something.

Still, within the relatively uninspired chain of events, the cast finds ways to spruce up the proceedings.  Scott and Schilling make for a convincing everyman and woman, reacting like every sane person would to the escalating oddity of their hosts.  Jason Schwartzman, most widely recognized as the mouthpiece for quirky Wes Anderson dialogue, also adds a great deal of fun to “The Overnight” with his articulate, confident eccentricity.  Unlike the stilted, clearly scripted cadences of his most frequent collaborator, Brice gives Schwartzman dialogue that actually sounds like it could come from an actual human being.  And that makes his character all the more hilarious and exciting to watch.  C+2stars