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The Women on the 6th Floor

The Women on the 6th Floor

Released 13 July 2012
Director Philippe Le Guay

Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain, Natalia Verbeke, Carmen Maura, Lola Duenas, Berta Ojea, Nuria Solé

Philippe Le Guay, Jerome Tonnerre

Etienne Comar, Philippe Rousselet
Origin France
Running Time 104 minutes
Genre Comedy
Rating TBC

French fancy.

A feel-good love story about infidelity? Only the French would attempt this. Set in 1960s bourgeoisie Paris, Les Femmes du 6ème étage focuses on a group of Spanish maids occupying the sixth floor of an apartment building owned by the aristocratic Monsieur Joubert, where he lives with his wife and utterly insufferable spoilt sons (missing for the most part thanks to boarding school). Tired of his dull existence as a stockbroker, he becomes fascinated by the simple things the maids take pleasure in and eventually shacks up alongside them, taking a particular interest in the newest addition to their posse, Maria. While at first the interactions between Monsieur and Maria seem kind and noble, as he continually goes out of his way to help her and the group of poor maids, eventually we realise that the only motivation behind his actions is to simply get into her undergarments.

This is exactly the type of overly sentimental film that French New Wave directors rebelled against in the sixties, so why resurrect it? As if risen from the grave, Women is a bizarre throwback to that earlier era of nostalgic films. The overarching theme of the ‘noble proletariat’ is so insincere and mawkish that it requires a strong stomach to sit through. Even as a light-hearted comedy the film barely succeeds and the personality change that Monsieur goes through is so blatant that it’s almost cartoonish.

The poor maids treat him like a god for doing them even the smallest of favours and the films insistence that this should be the natural order of things is positively reactionary. Women too are presented as dependent on men. One of the younger maids joyfully announces she’s getting married and is thrilled at the prospect of not having to work... before listing the household chores she’ll be expected to do for her husband. Even the outspoken communist maid gleefully joins in the celebrations. So that’s feminism out the window then. Not even the bourgeoisie women are spared. Monsieur’s wife is presented as sympathetic, with her only flaw being that she was an uneducated ‘country girl’ growing up and now wholeheartedly embraces her aristocratic life. She certainly doesn’t deserve to have her husband leg it with the maid.

Regardless of whether or not Monsieur and Maria should end up together, a lack of sexual chemistry between the pair means that the likeable Maria appears more like a greedy social climber when she and Monsieur finally get jiggy and the films feel-good ending leaves a sour taste.

- Cathal Prendergast