Private Property

un film de Joachim Lafosse

If one could use the term "tortured tour de force" without sounding like the most cliche'd critical writer ever to take pen to paper, then one would have the perfect descriptive when writing about Isabelle Huppert's performance in Private Property. Surely a deftly directed film from all angles by Joachim Lafosse, it is Huppert's performance (and yet another bravura one at that) which cements this film in the proper perspective.

Being the hardcore auteurist that I am, more oft than not I am apt to get excited about one film or another because of who is directing them, yet there are a certain group of actors in which, no matter who sits at the captain's chair, I am so inclined to seek out and flail my arms about in a frenzied star-struck giddiness. Meryl Streep is one of these. Vanessa Redgrave is another. Isabelle Huppert certainly is another. Perhaps it is the vivaciousness with which she attacks each and every part. Perhaps it is her chameleonesque engulfing in each and every said part. Perhaps it is because, even edging toward her mid-fifties, she is ravishing to behold. Whatever the case, here I am praising, yet again, a brilliant performance from one of the greatest actresses working today.

Though not wanting this to sound too much like the weekly meeting of the Isabelle Huppert fan club, I should also take note of the film which surrounds our intrepid shining star. The story of a mother (the aforementioned intrepid shining star) who lives, post-divorce, with her grown twin sons in a rambling country house full of just enough oedipal undertones to make Freud spin around and sprout a stiffy in his urn, like the Sandman on Cialis. Huppert's angst between still caring for her children and moving on with her life comes to full blows when Thierry, the everso slightly younger yet much brasher of the twins (played with a complete irrational brutality by L'Enfant's Jérémie Renier), decides their mother is not entitled to her own life and makes sure she can never have it. What ensues is an epic battle of wills between mother and son, and the weaker twin (played by Renier's real-life brother - though not twin - Yannick) is trapped in the inevitably tragic middle.

Brash, brutal and downright ugly, Private Property lends itself perfectly to such a Greek tragedy-like story as this, and Lafosse (who I must admit to not having a familiarity with prior to this screening) lays it out in all its psychological Grand Guignol. All the while, with the sensibilities of both a Haneke film and one by the brothers Dardenne (there goes that damn auteurist in me again) and using alumni of each filmmaker, Lafosse has weaved together a film of near equal virility to both. Perhaps a bit obvious in its conclusion, or lackthereof (I do love those French and their lack of closure), though the penultimate scene, a near wordless transformation of Jérémie Renier's Thierry from indignant bully to contorted mouse, is the strongest in many a film this year, Private Property certainly pulls no punches when it comes to its acting chops - especially from such a tortured tour de force as Ms. Huppert gives us. [06/21/07]