Monday, September 6, 2010

Trophy Wives and Hollywood Daughters - Potiche, Hitparzut X, Somewhere

(Venice, Italy) Catherine Deneuve will be 67-years-old next month, and after seeing her in the world premiere of the French film, Potiche, I nominate her for Empress of the Planet Earth. I want to live under her rule. Set in 1977, director Francois Ozon's Potiche is an old-fashioned, contemporary-Moliere, feel-good comedy, and injected some much appreciated French humor into the festival. The character Deneuve plays, Suzanne Pujol, transforms from trophy wife to umbrella factory boss to member of Parliament and wanna-be Mother of France -- the "trophy wife who refuses to stay on the shelf." Co-starring Gerard Depardieu as the communist mayor love interest, and Fabrice Luchini as the bombastic, tyrannical husband, I wouldn't know how to market it to American audiences, but I am quite sure it would be a hit for the simple reason that it is a funny, well-constructed story, with terrific performances by all. It's like an old-fashioned Doris Day comedy with teeth. You can pile your grown children into the car and take in the show -- in fact, for those of you in New York and Los Angeles, where, perhaps, this film could eventually arrive, that is what I suggest -- it is the perfect film to see with your in-laws. The industry audience laughed throughout the screening, with genuine applause at the end. During the press conference, it was mentioned how difficult it is for a comedy to screen at a film festival, but I think the entire Potiche group got their message across brilliantly, using humor to comment on the new advance of male chauvinism that seems to be spreading across the globe.

At the opposite side of the spectrum, Israeli director Eitan Zur makes his feature debut about another trophy wife in Hitparzut X, or Naomi. Much darker in tone, 60-something, overweight, astrophysicist Ilan Ben-Natanist is married to blonde, beautiful 28-year-old book illustrator, Naomi -- how that marriage happened in the first place is not clear. Of course she cheats on him. Ilan becomes obsessed with jealousy and turns to his 80-something mother for advice, who tells him that is what he gets for marrying eye-candy, and to let the affair play itself out. Instead of heeding his mother, Ilan murders his wife's lover with his bare hands, and turns again to Mom for advice. "No corpse, no crime," she advises, and takes the stereotypical self-sacrificing Jewish mother to new heights with her solution.

Sofia Coppola's Somewhere, starring Stephen Dorff as Johnny Marco, is set in Los Angeles at the legendary Chateau Marmont, "playing itself for the first time at length on-screen," according to the press book. "The Chateau doesn't allow a lot of filming," comments producer G. Mac Brown, who entered into negotiations with the hotel early and often. "If and when they do, they can charge a very high location fee and it probably has to be done in the middle of the night. None of this was the case with 'Somewhere.'"

And that, perhaps, is the point of the movie -- Sofia Coppola's reflections on what it's like to be the daughter of a Hollywood icon, with all its privileges and sand traps. Johnny Marco drives a Ferrari and has twin blonds pole-dancing in his room for amusement -- the poles are collapsible, transported by the girls; the gay masseuse transports his massage table; room service is delivered; everything comes and goes in Johnny Marco's room at the Chateau without much effort on his part, including his 11-year-old daughter, Cleo -- forcing him to decide which path in life he will take.

During the festival, I have been reading Irwin Shaw's Evening in Byzantium about the Cannes Film Festival, and first published in 1973.

"How's your daughter?"
"It would take all night to tell you," he said. "She's after me to quit the movie business. Altogether. She says it's cruel and capricious and the people're awful."
"Did she convince you?"
"Not quite. Although I more or less agree with her. It is cruel and capricious, and most of the people are awful. Only it's not worse and probably better than most other businesses. You get more bootlicking and lying in one day in any army, for example, than in a year in every studio in Hollywood combined. And there's more throat-cutting and double-dealing in politics, say, or selling frozen foods than there ever possibly could be on a movie set. And the end product, no matter how bad it is, can't do any more harm than generals and senators and TV dinners."

Since I lived much of my adult life in Los Angeles, it was nice to cruise Sunset Boulevard again in a car that rumbles, if only in a film...

Ciao from Venice,
Cat -

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