Opening film Potiche and Little White Lies among GFF highlights

French Connection

An overview of the careers of both actresses

Rumour has it that the great French actress Catherine Deneuve was recently paid £100,000 for making an appearance at a wealthy film festival. £100K being the rough budget for the whole of the Glasgow Film Festival, the star of the opening film Potiche will not be making an appearance in the west of Scotland this month, but along with her heir to the Euro queen throne, Marion Cotillard, her gallic spirit, insouciance and sophistication is a useful metaphor for the many riches that lie inside this the seventh Glasgow Film Festival, my how time has flown.

After treading water in decent and mediocre supporting roles for almost a decade (Kings and Queen, A Christmas Tale, The Girl on the Train), Deneuve moves centre stage for Francois Ozon’s delightful social comedy Potiche, in which she plays a 1970s trophy wife who finds herself empowered when she gets to run her husband’s umbrella shop (her husband being the money and girth-rich Gerard Depardieu). Speaking at the Venice Film Festival Deneuve said her journey back to the 1970s was not one she took lightly: ‘The 1970s was not really a special period for me. The character that I play is so far from me, so I didn’t really have to think of anything. I had no possibility anyway, because I was so much younger in the 70s and had no exposure to women like that and yet I liked very much the character of this woman.’ Deneuve has of course been here before with Swimming Pool and The Refuge writer/director filmmaker François Ozon in 2002’s 8 Women but ‘Potiche was very different because it was me that was the main character, with 8 Women we were eight women on the same level of work and it was very different, my relation with François was much closer and on this one.’

In the last week of the festival, fellow Parisian and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard can be seen in Guillaume Canet’s second directorial feature. Actor and writer turned director Canet previously gave the world unparelled two-legged thrills in his 2006 Harlan Coben adaptation Tell No One, but Little White Lies is a very different kettle of middle class angst. The film has already drawn obvious comparisons to The Big Chill (when one of their number is injured, old friends talk around their navels on a beach holiday) but after assured turns in La Vie en Rose, Public Enemies and Inception, Cotillard found she had to clear the decks, as it were, to play the pivotal character of Marie: ‘When you have an emotional scene to do, if you think about something that happened to the point of being in that state of emotion, then when the scene has finished, that emotion is still there. Because it belongs to you and it doesn’t belong to the scene or the character. So you can’t just run away from this emotion that you brought back from your past and your own suffering. My solution is always to be a 100% in character. And then you get what this person feels. Someone who suffers will have very strong emotions and you will get those emotions because you drown yourself in those emotions.’

Cotillard, who keeps her Oscar in her sparse Paris apartment and practices bass guitar when she is not jetting between American and European productions, is a serious actress whose career choices have thus far been wise and director led, as well as being comparable to remarkable body of work Deneuve was collating when she was her age (Belle De Jour, Repulsion, and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to name just a few of many). Where Cotillard’s future choices will lead her is any one’s guess, but if it ends her to an overheated studio with her wearing a 1970s bri-nylon blouse, then it won’t be such a bad thing.


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