High school literature teacher Germain (Fabrice Luchini, Ozon’s Potiche) is fed up with the student body at large, but impressed with the quality of writing by 16-year-old Claude (Ernst Umhauer, The Monk). For an early assignment, the student turns in a rather voyeuristic, true story about visiting the home of his awkward classmate, Rapha (newcomer Bastien Ughetto), whom he’s tutoring in trig.
While Germain is concerned that the tale could harm Rapha if the kid were to learn about it, his own curiosity gets the best of him, so the educator encourages Claude to keep writing about this middle-class family. The more Claude reveals — such as his sexual longing for Rapha’s MILFy mother (Emmanuelle Seigner, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) — the harder the teacher pushes the pupil to let that pen leak.
When Claude’s subsequent stories stop on a cliffhanger, with a toying “To be continued,” viewers will be as sorry as Germain to see them come to an end. Ozon knows his audience will be on the hook, which is exactly the point of the movie. How much of what Claude writes (and that we see) is real? Or is he just manipulating Germain (as Ozon would be manipulating us)?
The answers arrive in due time. Somewhere in the middle, Ozon allows Germain to drop a hint by telling his young charge that the best ending is one that audiences don’t expect, yet agree couldn’t finish any other way. With his own finale, I’m not sure Ozon fully lives up to the “any other way” part. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because in art, unpredictability is always a virtue.
Fans of Ozon’s best-known work, Swimming Pool, will be pleased to know that In the House approaches the feel of that 2003 thriller far more than any of his half-dozen movies in the decade between. However, the filmmaker is not one to repeat himself, so this latest project is not overtly Hitchcockian. In fact, it’s not so easy to pin down at all, which stands as another notch in the plus column.
Cohen Media Group’s Blu-ray includes deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and bloopers. If you think seeing bloopers for a French film is weird, get a load of the “Costume Fittings.” That may be a first. —Rod Lott
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