movie film review | chris tookey

In The House/ Dans La Maison

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  In The House/ Dans La Maison Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
8.33 /10
Fabrice Luchini , Ernst Umhauer , Emmanuelle Seigner
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Directed by: Francois Ozon
Written by: Francois Ozon, based on the play The Boy in the Last Row by Juan Mayorga

Released: 2012
Origin: France
Colour: C
Length: 105

Civilised French comedy thriller.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Francois Ozon’s In The House is an elegant, sophisticated black comedy thriller with a lot to say about storytelling, control and manipulation of the truth.

Fabrice Luchini (pictured right) plays a world-weary teacher whose favourite subject is creative writing. He’s in the classical, realist tradition, with admiration for Flaubert and Dickens. His arty wife (Kristin Scott-Thomas, pictured left) has more modernist tastes, which he despises, not without reason, as pretentious.

Both are drawn to the writing of his pet pupil, a handsome but creepy 16 year-old (superbly played by 21 year-old Ernst Umhauer), a working-class lad starved of love, who infiltrates the “perfect” middle-class family of his best friend.

Over some weeks, the teacher and his wife read with appalled fascination the tale of the boy’s seduction of the family, before they are dragged into the narrative and have to decide for themselves whether it is realistic or post-modernist.

Whatever else it is, this tale of a tale is gripping and entertaining. It’s wordy – based as it is on Juan Mayorga’s play The Boy in the Last Row – but plays cleverly with our expectations.

The acting is impeccable. The half-nurturing, half-jealous father-son relationship between teacher and pupil is acutely observed. The shifting attitudes of the two middle-aged women (Scott-Thomas and, within the story, Emmanuelle Seignier) from quasi-maternal to something more sexual has a real erotic charge.

This is easily Ozon’s finest film, miles better than his early, patronising attempts at skewering the bourgeoisie in Sitcom and Eight Women. It reminded me of the best creations of Eric Rohmer, mixed with the eroticism of Roman Polanski and the darkness of Claude Chabrol.

Though ultimately it can be categorised as a comedy, be warned or encouraged by the fact that it’s aimed at the mature, thoughtful end of the audience-going spectrum and could hardly be further away from the Hollywood mainstream.

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