Director: François Ozon
Cast: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Ménochet, Bastien Ughetto
Running Time: 105 minutes
Release Date: 29 March
I’m certain that Gallic voyeurism is not a genre of cinema but, if it were, there is not doubt that François Ozon would be at the zenith of its form. The French director has made his name with steamy, sexually charged movies that surreptitiously lurk outside homes, peering in through windows. With his latest, In the House, he’s crafted his most scopophilic endeavour thus far.
Germain is a failed author and fed-up secondary school teacher who routinely mocks his student’s work with his modern-art museum curator wife Jeanne. After one night sifting through the usual two-line banalities of his class, he happens upon a well written account of teenage Claude intentionally befriending a classmate, Rapha Jnr, to get into a house he has been spying on for months. Intrigued, Germain encourages him to continue his home invasion with major ramifications for all involved.
This tale of “how far will we he go” is never anything but fascinating, one that will have you curious as to just what Claude is capable of and what he might be fabricating for his tutor’s pleasure. Ozon benefits greatly from an impressive across the board performance from his cast. Fabrice Luchini is excellent as the glum guide who revels in escaping his own home life vicariously through the family portrait his student attempts to paint himself into. Ernst Umhauer is every bit his rival as the enigmatic Claude, an XY chromosome Lolita who seduces all around him in some shape or form. Everyone around him gives the impression that something is missing in their life and he invariably acts to fill that void, whatever the requirement.
Kristen Scott-Thomas too excels as Claude’s wry wife who struggles living with a man who would rather read about a teenage boy’s bedroom trysts than enjoy his own. The Artoles (Emmanuelle Seigner and Denis Ménochet) are the ideal poster family for quiet disfunction—an ambitious, yet bored housewife, an overworked and under-appreciated husband a confused teenager—and the perfect prey for Claude’s insidious intrusion.
Subplots hit and miss to varying degrees; Jeanne’s troubles with the owners of her gallery and her marvelously gaudy art—blow-up sex dolls with dictators’ faces, interpretive blank canvases and two-tone paintings of phallic swastikas—are some of the film’s light, dafter moments while Rapha Snr’s (an otherwise excellent Ménochet) obsession with all things Chinese seems undercooked and bluntly shoehorned.
Ozon utilises his trademark creeping cinematography splendidly here: peeking through windows, cracks in open doors and behind wall partitions. His regular composer, Phillipe Rombi, too, adds wonderfully with a score that flips between intensely shrill strings and bouncy, effervescent pop. Like many other Ozon films—and this student’s spiraling narrative—In The House does begin to unravel faster than Claude can spin his tale in its final third. Still, its warped and wicked ways are a fun ride.