Saturday, 3 December 2011


Palace Films
Now Showing

While it is the story of female domestics in the 1960s, any comparisons between Philippe Le Guay's new film and 2011's earlier release, The Help, end there. Le Guay's look at the Spanish maids keeping house for the bourgeoisie of Paris is so rosy-coloured and sweet natured, it makes The Help seem positively hard hitting.

Although not without their hardships, the Spanish women who left the tyranny of Franco's Spain to earn money for their families who remained certainly didn't have it as tough as The Help's Aibeleen and Minnie; cramped quarters and faulty plumbing hardly compares to entrenched racism and fighting for one's civil rights.

But these women, who live in close quarters on the sixth floor of the apartment building where they keep house, share a camaraderie, and a strength in sisterhood which is both a pleasure to behold and an all too rare occurrence in today's cinema (The Help excepted).

Newly-arrived to Paris, Maria (Natalia Verbeke) finds employment in the home of stockbroker Jean-Louis (FabriceLuchini) when his long-time maid quits after one too many run-ins with Suzanne (Sandrine Kiberlaine), Jean-Louis's wife and the new lady of the house following the death of his mother. And while Suzanne has many more demands of the incoming domestic, it seems Jean-Louis's only requirement is the ability to perfectly boil an egg.

But the stockbroker's eyes are soon opened to Maria's many other skills (not to mention her beauty) as well as the other women who live above his apartment but whom he's never previously felt a desire to learn anything about.

And so The Women on the 6th Floor becomes a story of discovery, of the way the other half lives, and one of self discovery for Jean-Louis, whose soul is awakened to the joie de vivre of everyday life.

The Women on the 6th Floor is perfectly enjoyable and sweet, and that's not to damn Le Guay's film with faint praise. It may not be a Mike Leigh study of the working class or Ken Loach essay on the class divide, and it may be lacking in political agenda or any kind of edge (even adultery and divorce are handled amicably), but as a period comedy of gentle humour, The Women on the 6th Floor succeeds.

No comments:

Post a Comment