Thursday, September 09, 2010

Ozon’s Hideaway

It is hard to be a single mother-to-be, even in France. Being a recovering heroin addict does not help either. At least the previously waifish Mousse has been provided a cozy beach house by a vaguely-established benefactor. She also has the support of the recently deceased father’s attentive younger brother Paul. Circumstances will definitely force a flexible approach to family and parenthood in François Ozon’s latest French import, Hideaway (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Though he dies about five minutes into Hideaway, elder brother Louis continues to exert an influence on the film’s characters, first and foremost through the baby growing inside Mousse. Having had issues with his severe mother that will remain forever unresolved, the family (meaning the matriarch) does not want to deal with his black sheep heir. The abortion services of their doctor are offered, but Mousse decides to have her child in seclusion.

She only keeps in contact with Paul, the nonthreatening but decidedly sexually active gay brother, whom she allows to crash with her before he leaves for a Spanish holiday. Not surprisingly, there is a bit of tension in the air when Paul first arrives, but they quickly grow accustomed to each other. Of course, the methadone guzzling Mousse still has issues of her own to work out, spurring her to precipitate annoying little dramas with the easy-going brother at regular intervals.

There were no prosthetics employed in Hideaway. Evidently quite persuasive, Ozon did indeed convince Isabelle Carré to take the rather demanding lead role of Mousse while six months pregnant. As a result, she is obviously convincing, but her character remains more than a bit of a cipher throughout the film. She chose life for her baby after very nearly extinguishing her own. Yet, her instincts and attitudes towards motherhood remain uncertain. Indeed, part Hideaway’s intention seems to be an exploration of how the characters around Mousse react to her, ranging from the solicitousness of Paul and his new lover to the creepy advances of a pregnancy fetishist.

Ozon helms with a sensitive touch, memorably using an original piece composed by Louis-Ronan Choisy, a French pop-star making his film acting debut as Paul. He might actually be too likable as the stereotypically kindhearted brother. Despite his limited dialogue and screen time, Melvil Poupaud still creates a strong sense of character as the ill-fated Louis. However, squeamish viewers should be warned—his early scenes of heroin-shooter are a bit disturbing. They constitute quite a cautionary message, though.

In a way, Hideaway might make an appropriate double feature with Christophe Honoré’s Making Plans for Léna, but definitely not on Mother’s Day. Subtler and more emotionally reserved, it is a deliberately cold, well executed morality play. It opens tomorrow (9/10) in New York at the Angelika Film Center.