Francois Ozon's In the House, opening Friday (4/19/13) in limited release, gets in your head, slowly at first, then with greater and greater speed.
Initially seeming like a comedy about the vicarious voyeurism of a literature teacher at a Paris high school, it casually transforms itself into something else: a psychological thriller of sorts, in which what is real is never quite clear and never particularly important.
The always-fascinating Fabrice Luchini plays Germain, unexcited at the start of another school year trying to teach literature to adolescents. He's seen correcting an assigned composition on what his students did the previous weekend; most of the papers leave him in despair because they are so inarticulate. But he comes across one that sparks his interest.
It is written by a student named Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), a 16-year-old who seems surprisingly confident in his writing -- and who describes how he schemed his way into a fellow student's house he'd been admiring.
Claude, it seems, has been studying classmate Rapha (Bastien Ughetto) from afar and has decided that Rapha has the perfect family, something Claude craves. So he befriends Rapha by offering to help him study trigonometry and goes home with him after school. Then he waits until Rapha is working on a particularly difficult problem and uses the opportunity to explore the house.
It's less that than his description of Rapha's mother, Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), that catches Germain's eye: Claude's writing is at once lascivious and judgmental.
This review continues on my website.
Follow Marshall Fine on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollywoodnfine