In the House

Kristin Scott Thomas and Fabrice Luchini in In the House

Film Title: In the House

Director: François Ozon

Starring: Fabrice Luchini, Emmanuelle Seigner, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 105 min

Fri, Mar 29, 2013, 00:00

   

Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is an older literature teacher at a progressive Parisian secondary school when a standard writing assignment – “How I Spent My Weekend” – produces a surprisingly gripping piece of work. The essay, as handed in by a charming 16-year-old named Claude (astute newcomer Ernst Umhauer), chronicles the author’s attempts to inveigle himself into the impeccably bourgeois household of an unpopular classmate. The youngster harbours a particular interest in the family’s yummy maman (Emmanuelle Seigner).

Intrigued , Germain encourages Claude to keep at it. Soon, the teacher is dashing home to his wife Jeanne (Kristen Scott Thomas) to read aloud from the latest instalment of Claude’s increasingly disturbing adventures in suburbia. Is Claude’s literary soap opera part of an elaborate fiction or might his story be pieced together from unhinged journal entries? And can Germaine, as an eager consumer, facilitator and critic, be held accountable for where Claude’s audacious narrative is headed?

François Ozon’s freeform adaptation of Juan Mayorga’s play The Boy in the Back Row coalesces into an obsessive co-dependency not unlike the slanted relationship between Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier at the heart of the director’s 2003 thriller Swimming Pool. Ozon has as much fun here as he did with 2010’s Potiche. In The House giddily cherishes its many genre shifts, fourth-wall breakouts and playful allusions: Freud’s Civilisation and its
Discontents
sits by the bedside .

For all its meta-textuality, In The House really wants to be an old-fashioned, twisty pot-boiler. Ozon’s 13th feature is too accessible, too straightworld to be this year’s Céline and Julie Go Boating . The film articulates its allegiances in repeated visits to Scott Thomas’ unlovely modern art gallery, a ludicrous outlet where a blow-up doll with Hitler’s face languishes, unsold, by the window.

Jérôme Alméras’ crisp lensing and Laure Gardette’s precise cuts holds the project together even when high melodrama undermines our capacity to suspend disbelief. We never quite believe that these people could exist. But they ddo spin a good yarn.