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Ma Mère

(2005) ** Nc-17
110 min. TLA Releasing. Director: Christophe Honoré. Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Louis Garrel, Emma De Caunes, Joana Preiss, Jean-Baptiste Montagut.
An unfinished novella by Georges Bataille is the basis for Christophe Honoré's NC-17 epic of sexual transgression Ma Mère. Glazed-over looks, naked flesh, inane philosophizing, and sand dunes announce that we're in Antonioni-land, circa Zabriskie Point. Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher) and Louis Garrel (The Dreamers) play mother and teenage son, and when the boy's father dies unexpectedly, his mother admits to being a bitch and a slut and begins teasing her son out of his virginity. Third parties, Christian guilt, and self-hatred prolong the inevitable slide into nihilistic hedonism. In retrospect, the story's Oedipal symbolism is interesting, but the story's nuts and bolts—however exquisitely photographed and ably acted—are poorly assembled. The film's point seems to be, to quote one character, that "Perversion doesn't exist," though another explains, "There is no ideal world" and "Desire reduces us to weakness." Basically, as Honoré reads Bataille, we're all screwed: relegated to dysfunctional relationships or blessed and doomed with the death warrant of thrilling, apocalyptic sexuality. "Wrong isn't what we're about to do," says la mere. "Wrong is wanting to survive it." No, wrong is unintentional parody of erotic films.
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