In The House (Dans La Maison) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/03/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Impressively directed and darkly funny, this is a hugely enjoyable French black comedy with a clever, thought-provoking script and terrific performances from a note-perfect cast.

What's it all about?
Directed by Francois Ozon (Potiche), In The House is adapted from a play by Juan Mayorga and stars Fabrice Luchini as Germain, a pompous literature teacher at a trendy school who's constantly moaning about falling standards of literacy amongst his students. However, his interest is piqued when attractive star pupil Claude (newcomer Ernst Umhauer) turns a standard 'What did you do this weekend?' writing assignment into a story about insinuating himself into the lives of his best friend Rapha's (Bastien Ughetto) lower-middle-class family, lusting after Rapha's mother (Emmanuelle Seigner) and befriending Rapha's dad, ‘Alpha Rapha’ (Denis Menochet).

With Claude's initial tale left ‘To be continued’, Germain encourages his student to keep visiting Rapha's family and to continue writing the story, eventually giving the boy private tuition, so they can work on the ‘plot’ together and improve his literary technique. However, Germain soon finds himself being manipulated by Claude and when he shares the story with his wife, modern art enthusiast Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas), she finds herself drawn into the story too.

The Good
Luchini is perfectly cast as Germain and duly delivers a delicious comic performance that combines a sense of mischief, a genuine delight in literary promise and the sort of open-mouthed-shock combined with the desire to read on that's associated with scandalous gossip; he also has strong chemistry with Umhauer, who's equally good as the hard-to-read Claude (the script keeps you guessing as to his true motives). In addition, there's strong support from Scott Thomas (also perfectly cast), Ughetto and Menochet, while Seigner is cast effectively against type as oblivious, kind-hearted Esther.

The Great
Ozon's direction is assured throughout, drawing us into both elements of the story and then pulling the rug from under us, so we're no longer sure whether what we're watching is ‘fiction’ or reality (sometimes there are clues, such as Luchini's character appearing within Rapha's house dictating the action, but we're mostly left to work it out for ourselves). Similarly, the script is extremely clever, building suspense and delivering genuine shocks but also making astute comments on both the pleasures of writing and the nature of voyeurism; it's also frequently laugh-out-loud funny.

Worth seeing?
In The House is an enormously entertaining, superbly directed French comedy with a clever script and a typically terrific comic performance from Fabrice Luchini. Highly recommended.

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In The House (Dans La Maison) (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 01:23

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