What Do You Want To Know Today?
Maybe it's just me, but there's something sexy with stories about writers and their writings making it onto film, with recent releases such as Ruby Sparks powering its way into my top film of last year. In The House looks set to do the same too, directed by Francois Ozon, well known for his feature film Swimming Pool (which was also centered around a writer played by Charlotte Rampling), and based on a play written by Juan Mayorga called The Boy in the Last Row. Words cannot deny the genius of both the screenplay and the film's direction in crafting a piece that draws and sucks you into its narrative, becoming what's akin to a page turner that captivates all the way to the finale.
Fabrice Luchini plays Mr Germain, a literature teacher in a school whose lofty ambitions of imparting his vast knowledge go up in smoke with the most uninspired students, until he latches upon the raw talent of Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), which isn't hard since his homework submission on what happened over the weekend was two pages compared to his peers' two liners, and contained all ingredients necessary that would have caught any reader's attention with its yet to be verified autobiographical nature, a hook, and a cliffhanger. Soon Germain slowly discovers that he wanted more, and takes it upon himself to bring Claude under his personal tutelage so that Claude's creative output and juices can get to be nurtured by him.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays Germain's wife Jeanne, who partakes in the same, reading Claude's submissions as she struggles to get her professional art gallery in order, lest it be shut down for the lack of a good exhibition. And the interplay between husband and wife over Clude is something the film excelled in, presenting two sides to an argument whether Claude is imagining it, or telling it as it is experienced, about his near obsession with wanting and eventually getting into the house of his friend Rapha Artole (Bastien Ughetto), which soon evolves into becoming an integral part of the household with his presence on the pretext of tutoring his friend, but essentially being an outlet to get close to Rapha's mom Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), an infatuation that will take on epic proportions.
Interesting enough, this film works if you'd participate in it just as how both Germain and Jeanne allowed their morbid curiosity to get the better of them. We become those characters personified, and one can imagine just how powerful this is in a staged production. But its effect and impact are not diminished on film, as you'll find yourself demanding more, with Ozon often pulling the plug leaving you wanting more, and lapping everything up with Claude submitting another chapter of sorts being played out on screen. We connect the dots, and partake in the lives of the Artole family, learning about their hopes, dreams, secrets, celebrate in their success, and sympathize when they hit a brick wall. And there are many relationship types in the film, from that of lustful ones, to father-son relations, mentor-mentee, best of friends, and even the recurring GLBT ones that Ozon's films tend to feature.
In truth, watching this film becomes that guilty pleasure that is voyeur central, filled with comedy, drama, and wonderful acting that bring the characters to life, yet having the narrative mileage to pique and sustain one's interest from beginning to end by appealing to our primal curious nature, and really milking and manipulating it, with us allowing it to, and growing increasingly effective as we clamour for Claude to seek out even more intimate moments. It's a scary reflection of ourselves, yet an engagement by a film par none. A definite recommend!