Thursday, May 23, 2013

This movie silly? You could do much much worse


In the House (Dans la maison) (opening Friday at Landmark’s Main in Royal Oak and screened earlier this month at the Windsor International Film Festival’s monthly series) is all about the voyeuristic. François Ozon’s latest has fun with spying on the private lives of a boring middle class family, while it mocks them (think “Soccer Night in France”). It also ridicules a high school teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini), a failed novelist, who eggs his student Claude (Ernst Unmahuer), to probe the interrelationships of his fellow student Rapha's (Bastien Ughetto) mother and father in the family gestalt. Claude, you see, unlike the rest of his dim-witted classmates, has writing talent. He can’t get enough of visiting Rapha, ostensibly to tutor him in math but really to capture everything he sees about Rapha’s family, in writing, novel-like, with every chapter subsequently reviewed by teacher. Claude’s visits increase, which gives Rapha’s mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) – “the most bored woman in the world,” thinks Claude – pause, and makes her wonder if this visitor is a Peeping Tom. Meanwhile Claude falls in love with this beautiful housewife in distress. If all this seems silly, perhaps on one level it is. But it’s also interesting. How many movies create a story within a story, which serves as a canvas against which a protagonist can live vicariously or truly live? In this case it’s the frustrated teacher. If nothing else this film's characters are interesting, bourgeois suburban life is sent up, and we see a well acted performance of Luchini against Kristin Scott Thomas as his wife Jeanne, herself struggling as an avant garde art gallery manager whose job is on the ropes. More absurdity, right? Not quite. So, yes, this is a decent enough flick. You could do worse, much worse, choosing a movie on a Friday night.   

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