IN THE HOUSE
Sixteen-year-old Claude (Ernst Umhauer) insinuates himself into the house of Rapha (Bastien Ughetto) a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for Germain (Fabrice Luchini) his French Literature teacher. Faced with this gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, but the boy's intrusion will unleash a series of uncontrollable events.
Review by Louise Keller:
A bored literature teacher and a student with a fertile imagination is the starting point for Francois Ozon's adaptation of Juan Mayorga's intriguing play about voyeurism and manipulation, as the lines between fiction and reality are blurred. There's a dark undertone to Ozon's comic tale which begins with Fabrice Luchini's jaded teacher Germain despairing over the quality of thought when marking his students' English assignments about their weekend. It is the disdainful, colourful descriptions by nondescript 16 year old student Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer) as he describes the family of one of his classmates that initially triggers Germain's interest, before he and his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) become hooked into his voyeuristic adventures as tantalisingly expressed on the written page.
In pursuit of observing 'the perfect family', the isolated Claude is prompted to find a way of becoming accepted 'in the house' of his schoolfriend Rapha (Bastien Ughetto). The singular scent of a middle class woman is the way Claude Garcia describes Rapha's bored mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), who reads Home Beautiful magazines, while Rapha Snr (Denis Ménochet) and son live and breathe basketball. Just as Germain and Jeanne become addicted to Claude's observations and imaginings, so do we - especially as the beguiling words 'to be continued' feature at the end of each page or chapter.
Luchini and Scott Thomas work wonderfully together as the husband and wife who breathlessly follow Claude's pursuits and even become part of the narrative as they interfere and put themselves into the story. Umhauer plays the protagonist with disarming ease, allowing his not-so innocent manipulator to be the outsider who is smart enough to squirm his way anywhere. The character conflicts that Germain suggests by way of structure become reality as Claude pushes the boundaries of the relationships to meet his own criterion. The art gallery that Jeanne manages also pushes the boundaries and is a welcome, outlandish side-show offering obscene blow-up sex dolls and Chinese paintings depicting the colour nuances of clouds.
Occasionally too clever for its own good, the film may go one step too far, but Ozon manages the hybrid of genres beautifully and ultimately it is his superb cast that sells the nuances and the concept. The delicate balance of who is manipulating whom shifts throughout, leaving us constantly adrift and wondering where it will lead. Always intelligent, this drama-comedy with coming of age elements raises more questions than it answers, but has a compelling way of keeping our attention.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Provocative, playful, entertaining and audacious, In the House is a writer showing us the inner workings of writing, complete with its power to subvert, to imagine and to deceive. The 16 year old Claude (Ernst Umhauer) is like a young gunslinger discovering he can draw as fast as the pros, but not quite as accurate when shooting from the hip.
When he begins to write his school essays about his weekends, he unleashes the imagination - both his and that of his teacher, Germain (Fabrice Luchini). His essays are apparently reports of how he (driven by a natural writer's curiosity) insinuates himself into the house of his school colleague (friend is too strong a word for it, given his disdain for Rapha, played with insouciant nerdiness by Batien Ughetto). His father, Rapha Snr (Denis Menochet) is a struggling businessman working for a hideous boss and his mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner) is 'a middle class woman' whose boredom has plateau-ed and she's dreaming of just one thing: redecorating her house.
Having infiltrated it, Claude systematically invades all their private spaces, reporting it all back to Germain in his weekly essays. Germaine, in astonished and fascinated turn, reads the essays to his wife, Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), who manages a modern art gallery for a pair of twin 'bitches'. Claude becomes a catalyst of dramatic proportions - to them all.
There is sufficient complexity to Ozon's screenplay to give the film a sense of texture and depth, even though in reality it has neither. It is the most amusing piece of self indulgence on screen in quite a while, making audiences uncomfortable with its voyeuristic tendencies while making them laugh at its precise insights into human nature, the failings of its characters and the pain of being fooled.
All of the film's fabrications and fantasies rely on a cast that is 1200% sure of its performance footing, without tripping into the traps of self-awareness: that is, they all play it as straight drama, without a single wink to the camera. The pathos seeps through, the flaws of the characters are seen through benign but searching eyes and the humour is balm to the wounds inflicted.
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IN THE HOUSE (MA15+)
Dans la maison
CAST: Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Ernst Umhauer, Denis Menochet, Bastien Ughetto, Yolande Moreau
PRODUCER: Eric Altmeyer, Nicolas Altmeyer, Claudie Ossard
DIRECTOR: Francois Ozon
SCRIPT: Francois Ozon (play by Juan Mayorga)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jérôme Alméras
EDITOR: Laure Gardette
MUSIC: Philippe Rombi
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Pascal Leguellec
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 27, 2013