I like films that reveal themselves gradually, instead of following an instantly predictable pattern. That’s one reason I was so taken with Philippe Le Guay’s The Women on the 6th Floor. On the surface it’s a social comedy, set in Paris during the early 1960s. That deft comedic actor Fabrice Luchini plays a stockbroker who’s not only inherited his father’s investment business but his—
—apartment, where he has spent his entire life.
Things begin to change when his wife hires a young, attractive Spanish maid. Luchini shows more than casual interest in her, and learns that she is part of a thriving community of working women who occupy the floor above him. They have come to France to escape from the Franco regime and now represent a substantial part of the workforce in Paris.
With an aloof, image-conscious wife who ignores him (and their children, who go to boarding school), Luchini becomes intrigued—and then involved—with the lives of the women upstairs. He breaks out of his lifelong routine for the first time, which no one around him can begin to understand.
Writer-director Le Guay drew on his own experiences, and interviews with women who were part of the temporary migration of the 1960s, to create a humane, charming, and socially relevant comedy that’s well worth seeing. It won the Audience Award at this year’s City of Lights—City of Angels French film festival in Los Angeles, and with good reason: it’s a disarming story that offers substance as well as entertainment.