The Movie Waffler New Release Review - In the House | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - In the House

Directed by: Francois Ozon
Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner

A disillusioned French teacher becomes obsessed with the twisted writings of a mild-mannered student.

At the ironically titled 'Lycee Gustave Flaubert' high school, frustrated teacher Germain (Luchini) bemoans the lack of talent, or indeed interest, among the students of his Frenchclass. One evening however, while marking another crop of dull "How I spent my weekend" essays", he discovers a piece of writing by shy student Claude (Umhauer) which shows promise. Claude details how he befriended a boy in his class just to gain access to his house and establish relations with his mother, who he is attracted to. With Germain's encouragement, the young man continues to provide his teacher with literary details of his plan. As Claude's story begins to move into darker territory, Germain finds himself too involved to discourage his student, causing a strain on the relationship with his wife Jeanne (Scott-Thomas).
'Rear Window' meets 'Cyrano de Bergerac' in Ozon's brilliantly crafted psycho-thriller. Like Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock's film, Germain becomes obsessed with a developing story which may or may not be true. The difference here is that Germain has the ability to manipulate the narrative himself, or does he? Though he takes the role of Cyrano to Claude's Christian, it's the young man who is really pulling the strings, manipulating his teacher's desire to find that one talent who makes his teaching job, and thus his life, worthwhile. Claude uses phrases and observations designed specifically to appeal to Germain's contempt for mainstream society. The teacher and his art-dealing wife literally drool as Claude describes his friend's mother (Seigner) as possessing "that distinctive odor of the middle-class woman".
Film-makers influenced by Hitchcock are two a penny (especially in France) but few seem to translate the humor of Hitch's movies into their own. Ozon's film is packed with laughs, most courtesy of Scott-Thomas, whose character seems an amalgamation of 'Rear Window's Grace Kelly and 'Vertigo's Barbara Bel Geddes. Like the former, she struggles to get her lover interested in her own passions. (Some of the film's best jokes come at the expense of the pretentious "art" she deals in, including such "masterpieces" as a swastika made of dildos). At one point, with the best intentions, she tries to involve herself in her husband's obsession, only to provoke his ire. The scene recalls Bel Geddes ill-judged unveiling of the tasteless painting which destroys her relationship with Stewart in 'Vertigo'.
Ozon uses sharp humor, combined with every cinematic trick in the book, to give us a wildly entertaining movie which feels like the bastard love child of Woody Allen and Claude Chabrol. Once you enter this house, you'll be in no rush to leave.