In The House/Dans La Maison

In The House is the new film from Francois Ozon, director of a range of films including 8 Women and Swimming Pool.
This film is of a kind you just don’t get in Britain. It’s profoundly middle class (or should that be Established Middle Class?). Frabrice Luchini and Kristen Scott Thomas are a respectively a schoolteacher of the French classics and an art gallery dealer trying to make ends meet with some hilariously awful sex-toys art. One of the school pupils at one point warns another to be careful of the teacher because his wife is rumoured to own a porn shop.
Into this world comes Claude (Ernst Umhauer), a student new in class. When he’s set assignments, he returns strange pieces that seem to suggest that he’s “infiltrating” his way into a fellow classmate’s home just for the fun of it.
As the homework assignments continue, his attempts increase and he describes wandering around the house and the smell of the middle class housewife he seems to find alluring. He’s clearly preciously brilliant yet disturbing at the same time.
As viewers we’re treated to what he’s writing. While his classmate, Rapha, is real, as are his parents, we’re never entirely sure if he’s spinning us a line or he’s really doing what he says.
When he “sneaks” around the house, it’s less sneaking as just standing in the background observing.
Clearly the story reaches a head, and it would spoil it to say what happens. I’ll just say that this is very clever and smart film, and although at the end, I’m not sure if it totally hangs together, it’s really worth seeing.
Now maybe it’s just me, but I couldn’t help thinking that Rapha’s dad, Rapha senior (Denis Ménochet) looks a bit like a moustachioed Rufus Sewell. That’s notable because Sewell is onstage with Scott Thomas in the West End right now. Once I’d noticed, I couldn’t make the resemblance go away.
It was great to see it in a really packed screening in central London. It’s safe to say that most of my fellow audience were similarly middle-class (Or Established Middle Class. There may have even been some Elite in there!).
But I do have a problem with the film, and it’s nothing to do with the filmmakers. While I’m not going to spoil the film, you might want to stop reading now if you don’t want any kind of spoilers. All I’ll say is that you should avert your gaze at the moment the BBFC certificate comes up.
You have been warned…
In many ways BBFC notes have improved. But it’s one thing telling us that there’s going to sex or violence at the start of the film – although at the point that we find this out we are literally seconds away from the start. However this film’s description, within the certification at the very start, has a very specific mention of something that we’ll see and might be troubled by. It’s so specific, we know that something is going to occur at some point during the film. And it doesn’t take a genius, once we get into the film, to work out what that might be. It did elicit a gasp from someone near me in the screening I attended. But anyone who’d read the warning, knew it was coming.
And a couple of notes about the screening. While the film itself was excellent, I’m not sure that the advertisers in the trailers quite got what they bargained for.
I’m no fan of cinema ads. They go on for ages, and it seems a bit rich to get them as well as paying £11.50 for a ticket. But I work in advertising and I’m sensitive to them and what they bring to the cinema chains (just think, that popcorn could be even more expensive!).
So the advertisers here might have been disappointed to learn how quiet the ads were. Clearly the volume had been turned right down. The chatter of the auditorium pretty much drowned out the ads – and I was sitting near the front! Sonos, for example, was promoting how great their soundbars are. Well you wouldn’t have known it in this cinema. You could barely hear it.
And while I’m having a bit of a moan, can I suggest that VW rethink their URLs? VW has some kind of premium “supporting independent cinema” slot, and after supposed dramatisations about how famous film lines might have been originated patrons are given a Facebook URL to visit.
Can I suggest that given the average age of my packed screening was somewhere in the late 40s or even early 50s, that’s a thoroughly misjudged URL. I’ve written before of the stupidity of handing over your real estate to a third party like Facebook, but this illustrates that insanity beautifully. Yes I know parents and grandparents are beginning to get on Facebook, but I’d wager a majority of patrons to this particular cinema don’t use it. Anyway, my point still stands – why do you want people to try to find you on Facebook rather than on your own site?
Oh, and if you have three major sports stars for your bank brand, you might want to think twice about giving them stultifying dialogue for your ad. And you might want to think twice about running a full 60 second creative with said stultifying dialogue. Cringeworthy. Worst ad of the year. You know who you are.
My other moan is about trailers. I thought we’d past the point where, when presented with a foreign language film, the UK distributor would re-edit a trailer to disguise this fact. But clearly we’re not.
There’s a new Bernado Bertolucci film coming shortly (his first for nearly ten years), and it’s in Italian. But the trailer goes out of its way to excise all dialogue completely. Instead we get lots of reaction shots with musical accompaniment. As a consequence, I know absolutely nothing about the film except that it has people in it.
To my mind a trailer is there to give me an idea of what the film is about and tell me just enough about the plot to tempt me into the cinema to learn more. Some Hollywood trailers seem to imagine that telling me the plot of the first 80 minutes of the film in 90 seconds is their job, and that’s wrong too.
But come on. If we’re inclined to see an Italian language film in the cinema, then telling us that in the trailer isn’t a problem. And if you’re actually trying to deceive your audience, then surely all you’re going to do is cause problems down the line when they find out (Curiously, I think one couple in my In The House screening were surprised to discover a film called “In The House” and starring Kristen Scott Thomas was in French. They let out a little gasp as the first subtitles arrived on screen).
The final scene excerpted in the trailer was, hilariously a scene with lots of dialogue – none of which we heard. The characters were clearly talking to one another, and we just heard swirling music. Ridiculous.
Ironically, this followed a trailer for the new Pedro Almodovar film, I’m So Excited, which was full of dialogue. As a result, I want to see that film. The Bertolucci film, I’m still in the dark about.
A suivre.