Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
France, 2011. Les Productions Bagheera, France 2 Cinéma, Canal+, CinéCinéma, France Télévision, Centre National de la Cinématographie, Screenplay by Eva Ionesco, in collaboration with Marc Cholodenko, Philippe Le Guay. Cinematography by Jeanne Lapoirie. Produced by Francois-Xavier Frantz. Music by Bertrand Burgalat. Production Design by François-Renaud Labarthe. Costume Design by Catherine Baba. Film Editing by Laurence Briaud.
Isabelle Huppert so very often makes you regret complaining about your mom. This oddly eccentric drama is a perfect showcase for her talents as a Romanian photographer in 1970s Paris who makes a splashy name for herself in the art world by exploiting her twelve year-old daughter in a series of erotic photographs. She tries to pass off her questionable morality as a necessary sacrifice in the pursuit of great art, but as time passes it becomes much more likely that she simply has no boundary against whoring out her own child to make a dollar. The film is based on director Eva Ionesco’s own true story about her childhood, and as such suffers from a lack of ironic distance; the melodrama of its protagonists is enjoyable in the rich performances from Huppert, an excellent Anamaria Vartolomei as her offspring and Georgetta Leahu as her beleaguered grandmother, but Ionesco is far too obsessed with her memories of conflict with her mother and the story rarely progresses beyond the two women’s back-and-forth arguments. It is a soap operatic experience and not nearly as deep an investigation of the darkness of the human soul as it might be; Vartolomei switches quickly from being fascinated by her mother to realizing that she is being abused, and fights back in a suspiciously mature way. Perhaps this is because her character is pushed into a grown-up world before she is ready for it (including a series of ridiculous outfits she sports to elementary school that would make even Humbert Humbert worry for the state of the world), but it is possible that this is how Ionesco wishes she had reacted to her own situation and never did. Her film is never boring, however, particularly when viewing Huppert sashaying around in a series of outrageous evening gowns and shock blond hair, and the colourful visuals are intoxicating.