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PRIVATE PROPERTY

Director: JOACHIM LAFOSSE

BELGIUM-FRANCE-LUXEMBOURG • 2006 SUBTITLED • COLOUR • DOLBY STEREO • 95 MIN


ISABELLE HUPPERT SIMPLY TEARS UP THE SCREEN, YET AGAIN, IN THIS PROBING FAMILY DRAMA WHICH LOOKS AT THE FALLOUT WHEN A MOTHER STARTLES HER TWO GROWN-UP SONS BY THREATENING TO SELL UP AND MAKE A NEW START WITH HER LOVER.
By having the brothers played by real-life siblings, Yannick and Jeremie Renier (the latter familiar as the dodgy boyfriend in the Dardennes’ L’Enfant), Belgian film-maker Joachim Lafosse’s observant domestic chronicle certainly gains in intimacy, the scenes of shared bathrooms and claustrophobic mealtimes hinting that this trio are living a little too snugly in each other’s pockets. As a picture emerges of everyday bickering in the rambling country mansion which previously belonged to her ex-husband—the boys’ father—confrontation looms when we realise seemingly capricious divorcee Huppert is having a secret affair with a local restaurateur, who evidently has his own plans for their shared future. It may not sound like a dramatic pile-driver, yet the film is cumulatively extremely potent because it digs right into the nitty-gritty of family life. When you get right down to it, can bourgeois familial bonds be easily disentangled from property ownership? By threatening to sell the house they thought they’d inherit, is this parent withdrawing her love from her sons? It’s a notion made even clearer in the original title Nue propriete (literally Naked Property), and it’s slowly revealed as the elephant in the room as events escalate into a climactic set-to which is shocking, yet somehow not unexpected. Brittle, fierce, yet also vulnerable, Huppert is superb as the woman contemplating an escape from the home she’s made for herself.—Trevor Johnston.

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