Les Femmes du 6ème étage
Philippe Le Guay, France, 2010o
Paris in the 1960s: Jean-Louis Joubert, the fiercely conservative boss of a trust company and head of an upper-middle-class nuclear family, introduces a new housekeeper from Spain to her duties. After initial friction, he discovers that she is part of a whole host of Spanish maids who live a meagre but much more fun-loving existence on the 6th floor of his bourgeois home. As a silent alliance with the Spanish women is established, Joubert's frozen marriage comes to a head and the master of the house takes refuge in the attic floor himself.
No question: This hit film, which has been a few years in the making, is one of the countless French comedies that never get beyond social clichés. But the film moves so wittily and entertainingly within these boundaries that one is happy to forgive its conventional style. At the centre is a Parisian investment advisor and big bourgeois of the early 1960s, whose marriage and arrogance are shaken when he discovers the world of Spanish servants who live a meagre but much more lively existence than he and his wife in the attic rooms of his apartment building. Fabrice Luchini and Sandrine Kiberlain embody the bourgeois arrogance more shrewdly and multilayeredly than it initially appears, and the gaggle of Spanish foreign workers, led by Almodovar's early favourite Carmen Maura, also increasingly plays free of stereotypical Mediterranean joie de vivre. The film's middle section, in which the struggling husband takes refuge in the attic and learns about the backgrounds of his roommates, shimmers most charmingly. Asked by one of them about his blissful expression in the confining chamber, he says: "You have no idea how free I feel, Madame."Andreas Furler