Tuesday, 15 October 2013


Isabelle Huppert offers Catherine Breillat the possibility of intense, and intensive, self-reflection. Breillat has found art in all manner of sources in her cinematic canon, and even here: in the generous folds of chambray sheets, for example. Her own experience, vulnerable after a deeply debilitating stroke and swindled out of hundreds of thousands of Euros by a known con artist whom she effectively licensed to do so, is definitely not the first autobiographical one she has set to film, but it is her most factually accurate, and perhaps her most bruising. She has turned inward to find art in reality, in herself, and is there anyone better than Isabelle Huppert upon whom to rely to translate this conceptual art into physical art? Any boy is it physical. Huppert's body writhes and twitches, ever at odds with both itself and its environment, initially a crisp, sterile one that affords her no comfort, eventually a meagre, rugged one that seems at a constant threat of actively attacking her. In the final scene, we observe her family, capable actors all of them, but they have evaluated the measure of their purpose in this character study (or self-study), and concluded that it is small. Huppert's purpose is anything but, and the constitution of this character is constructed layer by layer behind her expressive eyes, and on through every nerve in her body. Huppert has delved this deep many times before, which is not a slight, it's an ebullient endorsement. The cruelty depicted by Breillat is enhanced by a primal, startling improvised score from jazz violinist Didier Lockwood. Though many scenes purport to deal exclusively with practical concerns, and though Huppert is vigilant not to sacrifice any of Maud's guarded flippancy in exchange for cathartic relief, the cumulative emotional impact of these scenes of the destruction of individual control is the most potent aspect of this harrowing film.