Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Original title: Abus De Faiblesse
France/Germany/Belgium, 2013. Flach Film Production, Iris Films, Iris Productions Deutschland, CB Films, Arte France Cinéma, Canal+, Ciné+, Arte France, ZDF/Arte, Palatine Étoile 10, Hoche Artois Images, Centre National du Cinéma et de L’image Animée, La Wallonie et la région de Bruxelles-Capitale, Umedia, uFund. Screenplay by Catherine Breillat. Produced by Jean-François Lepetit. Production Design by Sebastien Autphenne. Costume Design by Frederique Leroy. Toronto International Film Festival 2013.
Catherine Breillat taps into her own experience with the severe stroke she had a number of years back which nearly ended her film career. Isabelle Huppert appears as Breillat’s alter ego, an uncompromising filmmaker whose life is mainly concerned with the pleasure of work. Following her illness and difficult first days of rehab, Huppert eventually goes home and tries to get back into the regular rhythm of things despite the setback of new physical limitations. She also meets an ill-mannered, rough con man whose mercurial personality inspires her to want to cast him in a film, probably because he seems to be the only person who treats her as if she is still the healthy and capable person she was before her ordeal. It isn’t long before she is helping him financially, and soon after that is helping him so often that her fortune is dwindling to practically nothing, all in the name of appreciating someone who treats her without pity. Huppert does a masterful job, even by her standards, at re-enacting the hardest parts of her character’s journey as well as the quieter moments of reflection and doubt, but Breillat’s cold film rests on a conflict that only barely exists. The tension between Huppert and the non-charismatic Kool Shen as her opponent, who have no chemistry, is never achieved, and other than understanding cerebrally what attracts her to him his appeal is never quite felt. Breillat based the film on her own book detailing her real experience with the same situation; the man upon whom the story is based was sentenced to sixteen months in prison in 2012.