French director Francois Ozon said he was inspired to go ahead with his latest film – a battle of the sexes comedy – after the presidential election which pitted Nicolas Sarkozy against Segolene Royale.

“I realized there was a new era of machoism,” the director told reporters before the premiere of POTICHE Saturday night at the VENICE FILM FESTIVAL.

Monsieur Ozon said he had been incubating the idea for a film based on a Gallic play since before shooting 2002’s 8 WOMEN, but waited to move on the project until he could “say something about French women today.”

In French, a potiche is a vase or decorative object of little value and no real practical use that you put on a shelf or the mantle – according to media notes on the film. Colloquially, it is also a derogatory term for a showcase wife, whose job it is to take care of the household and look glamorous.

The movie stars CATHERINE DENEUVE as the well to do spouse of an umbrella factory manager and Gerard Depardieu as a communist oriented local politician.

The movie strikes a comic tone from the start, with opening credits that evoke the opening sequence of the 60s/70s American sitcom Love American Style.

CATHERINE DENEUVE’S Suzanne is out jogging in a red track suit with triple white stripes down the side, her bouffant tucked into a hairnet. As she performs calisthenics, small woodland creatures catch her eye and appear to greet her: She is clearly a woman without a care in the world.

That starts to change when her husband, a tyrannical manager, is taken hostage by workers demanding new bathrooms in one of the factories. Suzanne must take over the business during her husband’s three month cruise ship convalescence from the drama. Trouble starts when he returns and wants to take it back.

Suzanne, who has turned things around, is having none of it.

Off screen, Ms. Deneuve said she has never been a trophy wife.

“But I am sure there have been some moments I had the impression I was used as the way I was or the way I looked more than for who I was…Never really a potiche.”

POTICHE is one of 22 films – plus a still to be announced surprise picture – in competition for the GOLDEN LION, to be awarded on September 11.

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