During the pre-generic sequence of the film, one is happily surprised by François Ozon’s new opus: one is stricken by the sobriety of the images, and there seems to be someone who has finally dared to direct Fabrice Luchini, instead of letting him ‘Luchinize’ all over the place. But alas! As soon as the credits begin, Ozon’s taste for vain and useless effects is once again to be seen as being too obvious – Ozon tells a story of fascination and voyeurism, seasoned with a touch of frustration of the failed writer. All these ingredients could be those of a masterpiece, but it is not that easy to be Alfred Hitchcock.
Germain (Luchini) is a blasé high-school French teacher, who returns to work after the summer break with his motivation at a very low ebb. His married life is not the most thrilling either, with his gallery-owning wife (Kristin Scott-Thomas). Among Germain’s boring pupils, who can hardly master writing a two-page essay about their last week-end, is Claude (Ernst Umhauer).
Claude’s essay is far more interesting and well written than those of his pals. There is just one issue – in his paper, Claude describes how he has managed to gain the confidence of one of his school friends, Raphaël (Bastien Ughetto), with his only intention being to enter his house, which he badly wants to visit, because Claude is fascinated by his middle-class family. He wants to study them like an entomologist and his purpose is to describe their dull way of life without mercy. Claude’s essay ends with the line ‘To be continued…’ and, from that moment on, Germain is hooked to the story. Soon convinced that Claude has the talent to become a writer – the one he will never be himself ? – he will do anything to encourage him to write a ‘sequel’.
And Dans la maison is all about the concept of American TV series and their universe from the beginning – even though the film is inspired by a Spanish play by Juan Mayorga and the action is supposed to take place in the suburbs of Paris, the white wooden fronts of the houses and the perfectly manicured gardens could easily be those of Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane. The woolly excuse of the high-school being part of a pilot project justifies the reintroduction of uniforms, adding a touch of ‘college movie to the look of the film’, and so there we are. Evolving in a totally unreal yet vain and not even really aesthetically pleasing manner, set in an implausible story in which even the main characters do not seem to know what to do – it’s welcome to Air Ozon!
A social satire delivering highly caricatured messages on education, contemporary art and married life? A thriller involving a peeping tom with a gay subtext? The least a thriller can do, if it is not properly scary, is to raise the audience’s interest until the plot is solved. But here comes Ozon’s killer: he simply does not know how to end his film. Why bother with such a detail, when you can make your main character think out loud: ‘How on earth could this all end?’. Bad news – in a film, the saying ‘a fault confessed is half redressed’ is in fact always untrue, and playing with genre movies is simply a bad idea without an excellent script.
105 mins. In French.