It’s easy to admire François Ozon’s loose-limbed approach to filmmaking. He’s never been afraid to court the edges of camp or to lose himself in a grab bag of ideas. In 8 Women, he made one of the most artificial films of all time: a musical murder mystery set in a wintry country estate with a camera employed to keep reminding us it was all a set. In Potiche, Ozon seems to be using the actors themselves as constructions in his story of a manufacturing family running into the changing social structure of 1977. It stars Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu in bodies that have clearly exceeded their earlier elegances. In them we see both past and present. When they disco dance, and then later smooch in front of a neon sign for the Badaboum Club, the results are equally touching and ridiculous. The film itself alludes to pictures as diverse as 9 to 5 and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, though the point of the whole gaudy cinematic gesture seems to be to wallow in political nostalgia disguised as a family melodrama, sunk in a sitcom.
But it’s mostly deadly sedation time. Deneuve will always dazzle, though here she’s simple content to prance her stuff around — she doesn’t seem sure for once whether to be cute or poignant, so she comes off a little stiff. And though the family story has twists and turns, the too-loose Ozon makes it all seem stylish and, ultimately, inconsequential.