On Friday night, we went to Central Park at dusk to watch a showing of Potiche, part of the French Embassy’s enormously successful programme of free French movies outdoors in New York.

It’s a perfect 70s French comedy, about an aristocratic grandmother, stuck in an unfaithful and unhappy marriage, who through luck and pluck is transformed, first into a successful CEO, and then into a popular politician. Along the way her facade of conformity falls away, revealing unexpected aspects of her character.

It works incredibly well, and also feels shockingly modern. I remarked afterward how amazing, that a movie from that era could take such a critical, feminist, yet lighthearted approach.

My friends explained to me that it was released in 2010, not 1978.

Maybe I’m just not very bright. In retrospect, when Suzanne said “I’m a woman of the 80s … I’m ahead of my time”, and everyone laughed, that could have been a clue. On the other hand, maybe a lot of the cues we use to date films are in the jargon, even the accent. (The Cafe Society, Woody Allen’s recent film set in 1930s Hollywood, was notable for its strictly modern dialog.) Not speaking a word of French, I had no idea. I also don’t know any French actors, so I couldn’t use their ages to gauge.

Anyway, bravo to the cinematographers, hair, makeup, costume, and set designers of Potiche, for their convincing illusion.

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