It’s taken two years for The Women on the 6th Floor to cross the channel, so I went along to Dartington’s Barn Cinema to see if it was worth the wait…
Monsieur Jean-Louis Joubert (Fabrice Luchini) is an unadventurous stockbroker with a conservative, middle-class family, but when Joubert befriends the Spanish maids who live on the titular 6th floor, his family’s life is turned upside down – shock horror!
Set in Paris during the 1960s, the film juxtaposes the lives of the stuffy middle-classes and the working-class, Spanish cleaning ladies, who might be poor, but boy what verve they have whilst cleaning -gee whizz! Anyway, when our dull stockbroker’s new housemaid, Maria (Natalia Verbeke), introduces Joubert to her compatriots and their simple but happy lives, he’s animated by life’s simpler pleasures and rediscovers his own lust for life. But when his wife (Sandrine Kiberlain) accuses Joubert of having an affair, it gives him the perfect excuse to leave his shallow, bourgeois existence, and for the first time ever, he even has a bedroom of his own – how quaint!
The Spanish cleaners are all clichÃ©d, stereotypical performances, i.e. they’re fiery and passionate. Sandrine Kiberlain as Joubert’s wife has little to do other than play the frustrated wife, who’s also -predictably – the cause of her husband’s melancholy -oh poor Joubert! The film hints of a time when Suzanne was a farm girl, and a more adventurous woman, and seemingly implies that societies’ conventions dictated that Suzanne conform to a life of servitude, a life she never really wanted. But that doesn’t matter, because the film’s all about the frolicking ladies on the 6th floor, and of course, Joubert!
The romance between Mariah and Joubert bubbles away with predictable results and whilst Fabrice Luchini’s performance keeps the film plodding along, The Women on the 6th Floor is hardly compelling French cinema.