Synopsis by Karl Williams
Director André Téchiné brings his usual obsessions -- including a preoccupation with the fortunes of the bourgeoisie -- to this episodic drama, which serves as a thinly-veiled portrait of France's economic peaks and valleys from the 1930s through the 1970s. Jeanne Moreau stars as Berthe Pedret, a simple laundry woman who marries Hector (Michael Auclair), son of a wealthy, upper class, Spanish immigrant family that owns a successful farm machinery factory. Through a series of vignettes, Techine depicts the passage of years, during which the ambitious working class woman blooms through several bold moves, such as negotiating a workers' strike settlement and using her alliance with the war-time French Resistance movement to increase the enterprise's prestige. Eventually, Berthe comes to control the family's fortunes, but economic challenges in the 1950s force her to turn to an unlikely source for financial help: her obnoxious sister-in-law Regina (Marie-France Pisier). Regina, who ran off with a wealthy American after the war, may now be willing to aid Berthe in exchange for her freedom.
class [social], conflict, forbidden-love, laundress, marriage