Film Review: Gemma Bovery

Gemma Bovery

Gemma Bovery is a modern adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel Madame Bovary. The film is both self-aware and charmingly twee.

Martin is a former Parisian who takes over his father’s bakery in a small French town. When an English couple move in next door, Martin can’t help but draw parallels between the wife and the fictional Madame Bovary…

Director and co-writer Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery is something of an adaptation of the classic novel, as well as being a film about the novel. In Gemma Bovery, characters are not only aware of the existence of the novel Madame Bovary; they actively discuss or dictate events from it.

The film is as much about the narrator as it is about the title character. Viewers are positioned with Martin the baker, and much of the action occurs from his point of view. This use of a narrator, a fan of the original novel, is a good ploy to include references to the Flaubert story without awkward exposition.

The narrative of Gemma Bovery moves at an adequate pace. At times it can feel as if the story is jumping ahead without sufficient exploration. However, this makes sense as most of the action is presented from what Martin sees, rather than each detail of what actually occurs.

Camera work in Gemma Bovery frequently indulges in gentle voyeurism. Taking Martin’s point of view, there is a distinctive focus on Gemma’s face and body. There is a lightness to Fontaine’s direction, and indeed the overall tone of the film. Performances are decent; with Gemma Arterton well cast as her namesake. Fabrice Luchini also brings a jovial feel to Martin. There is a believable mix of French and English, given the characters and the setting.

Gemma Bovery is light and entertaining viewing. The film is sufficiently removed as to not attract comparisons to the novel it so overtly references.

Film Review: Potiche

Potiche is a charming comedy from director François Ozon. Catherine Deneuve steals the show with her performance as trophy housewife Suzanne Pujol.

In the late 1970s, Suzanne Pujol is made to feel like a trophy housewife by her husband Robert and two grown-up children. When Robert is taken hostage by his striking employees, Suzanne reluctantly takes control of the situation. As she takes over the reigns from Robert, Suzanne becomes an effective businesswoman, surprising everyone around her…

Potiche is an inoffensive and enjoyable film. Based on the play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Grédy, Ozon’s adaptation is peppered with delightful lines. The film is not outright hilarious, but there are some amusing incidents and dialogue which maintain the jovial tone.

Characters in the film veer between well developed and one-dimensional. Robert is rather synthetic as the philandering and power-hungry husband, while Jöelle is the typically selfish daughter. Nevertheless, town mayor Maurice is rather more interesting, as is secretary Nadège. The latter in particular is very involved in the affairs of the family, and shifts accordingly with the balance of power.

Clearly it is Suzanne who is most interesting. The picture of her that develops in the first section of the film is skewered some revelations. The second half of Potiche works almost like a parody of her character in the first. This flip shows the film’s ingenuity; offering viewers something unexpected. The same can be said for other characters such as Babin, albeit to a lesser extent. What at first seems like a rather straightforward narrative actually produces small twists, which help to generate humour.

The late 1970s setting is fantastically depicted in Potiche. Suzanne’s wardrobe is marvellous; the protagonist manages to make a tracksuit and apron seem glamorous. Similarly, the set design appears authentically of the period, as does the soundtrack. These are best illustrated in the scene where Suzanne visits the nightclub frequented by her husband.

Catherine Denueve is fantastic in Potiche. She really embodies the character, and delivers some of her wry lines very well. Gérard Depardieu is also good as leftist politician Babin. Fabrice Luchini makes the most of his role as the lecherous Robert Pujol. Karin Viard brings a touch of lightness to secretary Nadège.

Potiche probably will not be to everyone’s tastes, given that the comedy is lightly amusing rather than consistently hilarious. However, those who give it a go should find the film an enjoyable watch.