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Women on the 6th Floor, The/Les femmes du 6ème étage

6/10

Stars: Fabrice Luchini, Sandrine Kiberlain, Natalia Verbeke, Carmen Maura, Lola Duanas, Berta Ojea, Nuria Sole, Concha Galan, Marie Armelle Deguy, Audrey Fleurot, Annie Mercier

Director: Philippe Le Guay

The setting is 1960s Paris where wealthy, strait-laced stockbroker Luchini (Potiche) leads a staid bourgeois life with his socialite wife Kiberlain until the unexpected resignation of their family maid and the arrival of her young, hardworking Spanish replacement Verbeke catalyses a series of surprising events.

Luchini unexpectedly bonds with the eponymous women – noisy, life-enjoying compatriots of Verbeke – who live in the building he owns and in which he lives and, eventually, where he kicks over the traces and embarks on a brand-new life.

While there are no real surprises in the screenplay (director Le Guay and Jerome Tonerre) and no significant subtext apart from the obvious, a pleasing wit, Luchini’s charming performance that adds depth to a character who could so easily have turned into a standard cinematic cipher, plus one of matching aptness by Verbeke, along with a genuine joie de vivre that infuses the story telling, all add up to a light, bright and thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy-drama.

Additional pleasures include a chorus of Spanish maids (including a delightfully unthreatening Communist) singing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and a series of laughable attempts to teach Luchini Spanish pronunciation. It’s highly unlikely that The Women on the Sixth Floor would repeat its French box-office success here but, that said, it’s pleasant easy-going fun, smoothly presented by Le Guay.

Alan Frank

France 20110. UK Distributor: Cinefile. Colour by Eclair.
106 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 08 Jul 2012