English Title: In The House
Original Title: Dans la maison
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Director: François Ozon
Kristin Scott Thomas
Haven’t been tracking Ozon’s output for awhile (his previous entry for me is TIME TO LEAVE 2005), IN THE HOUSE apparently heralds a pleasing return with his most confident pace and killing panache, delineates a spellbinding yarn withholds which part is really happening and which part is our young writer’s fancy imagination.
Slickly shot, the opening upbeat instrumental tune brings viewers instantly to the scenario of a joint action between a high school teacher (Luchini), a has-been below-bar writer and his finest pupil (Umhauer). With mutual assent, Umhauer (comes from a broken family and has to tend his maimed father all by himself) is encroaching one of his classmates’ (Ughetto) domestic domain using the practical stalking horse – remedial lessons after school for the latter, whose perfect bourgeois life represents everything he is craving for, mostly a sensual middle-aged mother (Seigner). So he is writing down everything as a serial, detailing (fictional or not) what is happening inside the model family, and the teacher promises to read it, correct it, advice him how to become a real writer.
Obviously from the very first chapter, Luchini has been intoxicated by the story (after a serial of disasters from the retrograded youth, Umhauer’s writing could never be more fetching), so is his wife (Thomas), a middle-class gallery owner who is in a dire situation and might lose the gallery if her new collection fail to please her new boss, twin sisters played by an unrecognisable Moreau. As we all fully aware, things will go haywire, and the reverberations will boomerang on someone, and in this case, it is Luchini himself, his life will disintegrate eventually.
Borrowing Umhauer’s confession of using the present tense in his works, the film per se contains a certain present vibrancy which is extremely audience-friendly, engaging with a hefty gush of dialogs among its main characters (Luchini with Umhauer, Luchini with Thomas, and Umhauer’s self narrative), whether it is florid edification, or common conversations, all fittingly satirise the banality and futility of the status quo one is facing or trapped, like it is said in the film, literature and art cannot teach a person anything, we learn by simply living our lives.
“Falling for your best friend’s mother” is a gimmick always has its broad market, especially for a motherless young boy in his puberty, the otherwise corny infatuation here has been ingeniously conflated with a voyeuristic angle for Luchini/Thomas and all its viewers, with its ambiguous credibility, it plays out appositely under Ozon’s helm, leaving every on-looker chewing on what has happened and anticipating the twist.
Speaking of the twist, whose concoction is not so fully-developed, but anyhow it is a pleasant achievement, one’s seemly stable life can be undermined into a tailspin just like that, it is cinematic, but also cautionary.
Luchini embodies his character with wry self-knowledge, loquacious cadences, swankily entering my top 10 BEST LEADING ACTOR race. Umhauer is the opposite youngster, scrawny, reserved but occasionally glistens with a sinister grin, a very well casting choice. Thomas has really found her way in her French-speaking realm and Seigner, enclosed by a perpetual aura of ennui even during the squabble with her hubby (Ménochet), by comparison, underplays herself and looks like she needs a good rest.
The film ends with a fabulous mise-en-scene, various characters occupied by their own business (a protruding one involving two gun-shots), and we (like Luchini and Umhauer) occupy the front row, relish the privilege of peeping other peoples’ lives, colourful, vivid but never satisfied.