Thursday, April 18, 2013

“In The House” – Movie Review


 InThe House


This week in my movie class, we saw the new French thriller by director Francois Ozon, “In The House”, with Kristin Scott Thomas.


When a creative writing teacher mentors one of his high school students, he winds up encouraging the boy to inappropriately engage the family of one of his fellow students – but as the student’s writing assignments turn increasingly provocative, how will this impact all concerned?


At this point in his long career as a creative writing teacher at a suburban high school, Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is becoming increasingly bored. Discouraged by uninspired students who appear apathetic about their poor writing skills, he deems them all virtually un-teachable. At the beginning of the new semester, he is surprised at the quality of writing by one of his sophomores, Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), who turned in an intriguing homework assignment. So fascinated is Germain by this student’s capabilities, he decides to share it with his wife, Jeanne (Thomas), who finds it equally absorbing.

Claude writes eloquently about how he has been hired as a math tutor for Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), a classmate at his school, whose grades have been slipping. Rapha invites Claude to his house for lessons, where Claude gets an opportunity to meet Rapha’s parents – his father, Rapha Sr. (Denis Ménochet) and his lovely mother, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner). Slowly, and through Germain’s encouragement to continue writing about his experiences, Claude insinuates himself deeply into this family, to the point where Rapha Jr. considers him his best friend and Rapha Sr. invites him to join he and his son in their weekly basketball game. But it is Esther who holds Claude’s attention because he has a massive crush on her.

While Claude maintains that he is merely recording his observations in the form of an essay, Germain insists that these are instead works of fiction – a continuous short story that a gifted student is attempting. As a failed author himself, Germain sees Claude as another chance at success in this field and goes above and beyond the call of duty to assist him in whatever way possible – sometimes doing things of questionable ethics, especially for a teacher. At further urging by Germain as a way to make his story even more gripping, Claude ultimately does the unthinkable and makes Esther aware of his feelings for her – eventually, he acts upon them, as well. Esther, feeling unfulfilled in her marriage, does very little to rebuff his romantic overtures. Having gone too far in this adventure, how will the actions of Germain and Claude influence the lives of everyone involved?


With this work, director Francois Ozon’s newest effort has been compared to fellow auteurs such as Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock (the voyeuristic theme of this movie has been particularly likened to his “Rear Window” – and with good reason, I think). In fact, I would say the comparisons are worthy not just because of the content in this film but also because of the shot composition in certain scenes, suggesting something of a homage to Ozon’s predecessors. Either way, “In The House” is a remarkably compelling motion picture that should definitely be added to your “Must See” list – it is an unusual story about the very worst of human nature and our self-destructive characteristics.

Also reminiscent of these other directors – Woody Allen, specifically – is the well-implemented humorous moments interspersed throughout the more suspenseful points. These timely scenes serve to somewhat lighten the mood which might otherwise serve to make the movie oppressively dark. It’s a delicate balancing act that is adroitly handled under Ozon’s guidance. Also – as in the morality of a Hitchcockian dystopia – the evil are punished and the good are either rewarded, redeemed or permitted to escape further horrors.

At less than two hours, this movie has a pace that might almost lead you to believe that it is considerably shorter than it really is; I never once looked at my wristwatch at any point during this screening, which is typically a reliable sign that I’m enjoying a film that has grabbed my interest and refuses to let go. As a reminder, this is a French motion picture; the dialog is not dubbed – subtitles are used instead. Other than that, however, there’s very little suggestion of Gallic culture; given the fact that both Rapha Jr. & Sr. root for NBA basketball teams and love eating pizza and Chinese take-out, you’d almost think you were observing an average American family.

In the House (2012) on IMDb 7.3/104,211 votes

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