Winner, Golden Shell, San Sebastián International Film Festival
François Ozon’s seductive new film is perhaps his strongest work since Swimming Pool; a delicious, teasing reflection on mentoring, the creative process and the very nature of fiction, charged with the same flavourful air of dangerous sensuality and subversive humour that first put its French writer-director on the map.
Literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini) is beyond despair over his students’ refusal to engage. So when, as a written assignment, Claude (Ernst Umhauer) turns in a meticulously detailed account of his weekend that’s as psychologically intriguing as it is ethically troubling, Germain is hooked. Claude’s serialized soap opera revolves around the ‘normal’ middle-class family of his fellow student Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), a source of envy and desire. But the real object he covets is Rapha’s exquisitely bored mother Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner). As we watch each new episode unfold, Germain shares the chapters with his frustrated wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas, in fine acerbic form).
Doing a complete switch from his more comic roles and his obnoxious character in Ozon’s Potiche (JDIFF 2011), Luchini plays a richly contradictory figure here. Part poignant sad sack, part uptight prig and part exploitative predator, his participation in Claude’s story becoming almost maniacally voyeuristic.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter