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Ma Mere

Director: Christophe Honore

FRANCE| 2004| FRENCH W/ENGLISH SUBTITLES| COLOUR| 110 MINS


There have been rumours for years of Georges Bataille’s notorious ‘The Story of the Eye’ making it to the big screen. In the event, it has been pre-empted by Christophe Honore’s version of another Bataille novel, which – even if its imagery is not quite as lurid – is no less guaranteed to provoke. Louis Garrel, previously seen in Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, sheds his inhibitions once again as Pierre, inducted by his mother Helene (Isabelle Huppert) into her world of illicit desires and taboo-busting libertinism. After a night on the town with Helene and her partner in crime R‚ (imposingly vampish name-to-watch Joanna Preiss), Pierre follows his own investigations into desire together with the disarmingly innocent-looking Hansi (de Caunes), but inevitably all roads lead back to Maman.
Sceptics may feel that Bataille’s heady philosophical blend of eroticism, spiritualism and morbidity takes some swallowing, but Honor‚ handles the tone with bold stylistic rigour. The Canary Islands locations make sun-bleached austerity as essential to the film’s vision as is its steamy night-life scenes. Honor’s seriousness in addressing taboos makes him a new addition to the current school of confrontational French film-makers, including Catherine Breillat, Bruno Dumont and Philippe Grandrieux. Admirers of Isabelle Huppert will find this fearless performer absolutely compelling and unnerving in what surely counts as her most audacious, most defiant role since Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher.

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