This is a first-rate film I just saw (English title: ‘In the House’), which opened in France this week to mostly top reviews. The buzz has clearly been positive, as there was a long line at my local theater. Director is François Ozon, who did, among others, ‘Swimming Pool’ and the marvelous ‘Potiche‘. The film, set in an undetermined middle-class Paris banlieue—with American-style houses (a rarity, though they’re out there)—, centers on the relationship between an 11th grade French literature teacher in a public high school and a particularly bright student of his, who, actively encouraged by the teacher, penetrates the domestic life of his best friend’s family in the pursuit of his literary ambitions. It’s a complex film, very absorbing, deals with big questions—the teacher/mentor-student/protégé relationship, ethical dilemmas in literature, the line between reality and fiction, entre autres—, and with excellent acting (notably by Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emmanuelle Seigner). Hollywood Reporter, which so far has the only full review in English, gives it the thumbs up. Indiewire, in reporting on the pic’s top prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival last month, does likewise
Of the competition line-up, the eventual winner, “In the House”…was an early standout. Francois Ozon’s latest film cleverly combines the more accessible, mainstream and stylized comedy-drama of his biggest hits, “8 Femmes” and “Potiche” with the sensibility of his smaller, more cerebral arthouse efforts, such as “Time to Leave,” “The Refuge” and, especially, “Swimming Pool,” as both “Pool” and “House” are about a writer and the person whose life they transform, leading to a blurring of fact and fiction.
…“House” stars Fabrice Luchini (of “Potiche” and “The Women on the 6th Floor” fame) as Germain, a literature teacher at a French high school where, as he complains to his art-gallery-worker wife (Scott Thomas), the general level of interest of his students extends to mobile phones and pizza. Until he reads the assignment of a boy, Claude (newcomer Ernst Umhauer, very good), who describes how he manipulated a classmate (Bastien Ughetto) into giving him access to his home, ostensibly to help the other boy with his homework but really so that he can have a good look around in this perfectly bourgeois dwelling and get acquainted with both his parents (Denis Menichot, Emmanuelle Seigner).
Before things can go all Pasolini’s “Teorema,” however, Germain gives Claude some private lessons in narrative construction and storytelling, with the line between Claude’s new assignments and reality increasingly unclear until Germain himself starts popping up in Claude’s writing. Combining humor, drama, and a light philosophical exploration of the art of storytelling and the relationships between fiction and real life and author and reader, “House” is an impressive and handsomely assembled film that’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
It will open in the US and UK sometime next year. Don’t miss it.