Deneuve, Depardieu together again (not!) at Venice filmfest

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Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, fixtures of French cinema, on Saturday come together again as the oddest of couples at the Venice film festival in a farce with attitude: "Potiche".

Based on a play of the same name -- which translates with difficulty as "trophy wife" -- the comedy relates the unlikely transformation of bourgeois housewife Suzanne Pujol (Deneuve) into company executive and her complex relationship with a tough-as-nails union leader played by Depardieu.

"I'd been wanting to make a film about women's place in society and politics for a long time," says director Francois Ozon, 42, who tapped Deneuve among the "8 Femmes" in the 2002 film that won him international acclaim.

"As much as I didn't want to end up making a backward-looking film, disconnected from reality, I felt I could achieve the tone and verve of screwball comedies," he said in his director's statement.

"Francois Ozon has written a funny screenplay full of references to today with respect to women and their place in society," Deneuve said late Friday. "Things have certainly changed since the Seventies, but not completely."

Ozon is among several young directors in a decidedly youthful line-up selected by festival chief Marco Mueller for this year's Mostra.

The world's oldest film festival kicked off on Wednesday with 41-year-old US director Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller "Black Swan", while Sofia Coppola, 39, unveiled her father-daughter drama "Somewhere", set in Hollywood, on Friday.

Still to come is "Promises Written on Water", a sombre tale about a girl with a terminal illness, by 49-year-old Vincent Gallo.

Also in the under-50 crowd is Quentin Tarantino, 47, who heads the jury of this year's festival running through September 11.

Saturday will feature another comedy, "La Passione" by Carlo Mazzacurati of Italy starring the prolific Silvio Orlando, who plays a washed-up filmmaker who is forced to set his last-chance project in Tuscany after a plumbing disaster at his country home damages a 16th-century fresco in a neighbouring chapel.

As a bizarre form of compensation, the mayor asks him to lead Good Friday ceremonies -- so the story of the Passion becomes his film, starring a local actor who happens to be an egomaniac.

"It's from the chaos itself that this story finds its meaning and in the end a certain dignity," Mazzacurati said.

"Ovsyanki" (Silent Souls) by Russian director Aleksei Fedorchenko switches the mood back to sombre in the story of a member of Russia's minority Merya culture who drives thousands of miles to bury his wife in a sacred lake.

On Sunday, the Mostra, now its 67th edition, will present US director's Kelly Reichart's "Meek's Cutoff" about the American frontier culture; Hong Kong New Waver Tsui Hark's epic mystery film "Detective Dee and the Mystery of Phantom Flame"; and "Post Mortem," set in Chile during the 1973 coup, by Pablo Larrain.

© 2010 AFP

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