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While "Private property" can be loosely brought under the umbrella of
"dysfunctional family drama" (a recent good one, in the English
language, is "The squid and the whale") divorced single mother,
emotionally immature just-turned-adult sons, the family's lacking in
general purpose and direction it probes the psychology of the
protagonist in a way more subtle than you would find in Hollywood.
The plot and events are not important here, just anchors for character development. While the twin sons are just turning adult, the mother, Pascale, who has been working as an employee wants to start her own business elsewhere, with a modest B&B operation. The pre-requisite for her dream is selling their house, which meets immediately with objections from the sons, Tierry and Francois. The divorced father lives within driving distance, with his own family now, but is still on good terms with the sons, something the mother loathes. The mother is having her second romance, seeing a neighbour regularly. Tierry has a girlfriend, not a serious relationship. There you have all the characters. Nothing much happens. As I said, the events serve only to anchor the depiction of relationships between the various people. At the end, something does happen, an accident which is left open-ended.
The movie starts in a mood that you can almost call jovial, as the sons tease Pascale for her new dress. We see a lot of the family in a mundane daily activity eating at the kitchen table. It's only upon reflection that it occurs to me that these scenes perhaps underscore the dependence of the sons on their mother, as do the scenes that repeatedly remind us that they often need a ride from the mother as they live in a remote location and their motorcycle is not a reliable piece of machinery. The message finally sinks in that although Tierry and Francois have just attained adulthood, they are still children in more ways than one. Sitting in front of the TV seems to be their major activity, particularly after Pascale has left the house to stay temporarily with a girl friend after a quarrel with Tierry. The pair become very much like the little kid in "Home alone" (but less resourceful).
The distinction between the tow sons also unfolds gradually, but very clearly. Tierry is the rebellious one with an explosive temper while Francois is introvert, shy and more caring for his mother. There is surprisingly little sibling rivalry, despite their regular fight for the motorbike and adolescence jealousy from Tierry when his girlfriend receives a little attention from Francois. The more significant thing, however, is that despite the obvious fact that Francois is Pascale's favourite, Tierry does not seem to be jealous, probably because he does not care enough about his mother to be so disposed.
The file is shot in a simple, straight forward style, using mostly a static camera, with average-length scenes a day-to-day story told in a simple manner, the way it should be. Consistent with this, and apt, is the decision of not having any background music, until the ending 3 minutes (which in itself is quite interesting because the powerful, overwhelming and disturbing strings would be consider by some as an unnecessary distraction but by others as a brilliant coda to the emotion-charged conclusion).
Playing Tierry is Jeremie Renier who had a similar (but less explosive) role in last year's Cannes winner "L'enfant", demonstrating that he is a top choice for playing a young man facing a huge mental obstacle, however caused, in attaining maturity. Yannick Renier, his real brother, turns in an appropriately subdued, gentle persona. But it is of course Isabelle Huppert, as one poster points out, that is the main attraction for most viewers buying a ticket, including this one. All that I can say is no matter what role she has been given, Huppert always brings to it something that makes it more memorable.
Nue Propriete Isabelle Huppert. She was the only reason why I selected
to see this movie. She is a brilliant actress and provides such a
natural relief by her screen presence. She has got those tricks up her
sleeve to glue audience's attention on her always! The story is about
a divorced mother- played obviously by Isabelle; and her two sons
Thierry (ill-tempered) and Francios (sensitive) who live together and
the special relationship they share. When the mother wants to sell the
house to start a new life with her lover Jan (Kris Cuppens), Thierry is
one who apposes the move and this results in dividing the family and a
The Director Joachim Lafosse has also written the story and this is just his fourth movie as a director, yet he shows class. I think the forte of Joachim is the drama woven around his characters. The director lets all the characters in the movie let loose, relaxed and all characters give an astounding real performance. I think each character's brief stands out on its own with crucial expressions and emotions; and at times we feel like missing on one expression while seeing the other. I obviously was always hooked on Isabelle's acting talent.
All the actors have played their role with punctual brief, but the show is stolen with a very good acting done by Jeremie Renier playing Thierry. He shows the vulnerability and childish temperament with ease.
I would like to mention a special scene that is brilliant in the movie - when Jeremie is hiding in the bush, with the camera focused on him, and the hazy background running the actual scene all taken in one shot. I think this was a true winner shot of the movie.
Go and see the movie, you will enjoy it.
(Stars 7 out of 10)
This movie tells the story of a family collapsing on its own equilibrium. The director chooses a series of very essential and meaningful scenes and we seldom see close ups. The camera is almost always fixed in one point, and this gives the viewer the sensation of being a hidden witness to the events. Real life brothers Jérémie and Yannick Renier play 2 twin brothers that couldn't be more different. One is instinctive, passionate, ill-tempered and self-confident, while the other is more sensitive, shy and withdrawn. Their divorced mother is played by a brilliant Isabelle Huppert, and is experiencing a second wind in her life and believes that her sons are pinning her down. When she decides to sell their house to start a new life with her lover, tension rises and the family bursts apart. Lafosse has proved to have talent as a director. I give it a 6/10.
Joachim Lafosse's 'Private Property' portrays a family scarred by
divorce. The mother, Pascale (Isabelle Huppert), lives with her two
sons, Thierry and Francois (real-life brothers Jeremie and Yannick
Reniere), in an isolated rural household. Though they are both young
men, the brothers come across as puerile layabouts. Thierry is an
indolent student and Francois is employed only in odd jobs around the
house; much of their time is spent on ping-pong, computer games and
playing around on Francois's bike. The two subject their mother to
teasing and taunting that is on one level playful and amusing but on
another level disrespectful and mean; this is apparent in the very
first scene, where Pascale's new lingerie is the impetus for hurtful
Pascale is stoical in the face of such barefaced disrespect, but we can clearly see that the mother-son relationship is extremely strained. Although the two brothers depend on Pascale for food and transport in their isolated household, they show her very little respect. At the same time, Pascale is suffocated by the continued dependency of her unappreciative sons; she has had to put her aspirations on hold in order to look after them. The furious encounter between Pascale and Luc, her ex-husband, played out before the two boys, is an early intimation of the divisions in the household; Thierry and Francois are visibly distressed by the argument between their absentee father and their struggling mother.
Pascale's only outlet is her secretive relationship with Jan, her neighbour. When she and Jan hatch a plan to open a Bed and Breakfast, she finally decides to assert herself, putting herself first after 15 years of raising her children on her own. The brothers are dismayed by this plan, which will involve the sale of the house to finance the new business. Thierry stridently denounces her plan as fanciful and angrily proclaims his and Francois's sole right to inherit the house. When Pascale invites Jan over to dinner with the boys he tries to reason with them about their mother's rights to the house, but this only exacerbates the problem. This is one of many scenes set at the dinner table, which becomes less and less a focus for the family and more and more a theatre of conflict. Thierry's taunting soon turns into persistent bullying about the rights to the property and Pascale eventually quits the household and retreats to the home of a friend.
With Isabelle Huppert away from the screen, the film loses some of its magnetism, but the conflict that emerges between the two brothers soon becomes engrossing. Francois increasingly regrets the absence of his mother; his resentment towards Thierry comes to a head when he humiliates him in front of his girlfriend. A violent argument ensues, resulting in a terrible accident. The following scenes are all the more gripping as we see the panic on the faces of the family members but do not know how serious the accident is.
The conclusion of 'Private Property' is one of the most powerful pieces of cinema that I have seen this year. Thierry's belief that his mother has caused all the family's problems, past and present, is brought into the light of day. Pascale and Luc are left to pick up the broken pieces of their family. As the sole piece of music in the entire film begins to play the camera retreats down the road, driving away from the house for the last time. It is a devastating end to a compelling drama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie is an example of perfect psychological drama that only the
French (actually the director is Belgian) can write and direct in such
an essential and powerful way.
SPOILERS FOLLOWING Focusing on two twin brothers conceived by a divorced couple, the film is a very serious study on the dynamics between a mother (Isabelle Huppert) and her two bi-ovular twin sons (Renier twins). The threesome, since the moment of the divorce, lives intimately isolated in a great house in the middle of the country in Luxembourg. The two brothers are complete adults but unemployed. The quiet one is good at fixing things in the house, the loud one is good at doing nothing but kissing and having sex with a girlfriend he sees instead of going to the university classes. Mother is distressed because she's run out of money and, encouraged by her new lover, she wants to sell the family house her ex-husband offered as a precaution for the kids to invest on a green house. Of course, the troubled son makes a violent stand and starts treating her mother really badly until she decides to go away for a period and leave the guys alone in order to make them realize they're not little boys anymore. The ex-husband is a quiet and loving man who chose to marry a second time and had a third children with an other woman after Pascale (Isabelle Huppert) left him. For she is a woman, she is not able to confront her two male grown-up children (there is sexual tension between them also) and the ghost of her ex-husband. Her new lover doesn't want to interfere and draws back, leaving her alone. Pascale doesn't want her ex-husband to show his face and interfere in her personal relationship with the boys, but when she elopes she announces him that it's time that he takes care of them because she is exhausted and wants a new life. The father avenges and refuses to go and keep an eye on them because he thinks they're mature enough. He couldn't be more wrong! As the boys are home alone, their relationship suddenly cracks and in a moment of foolish and immature rage, the blond one fights him until leaving him unconscious. As soon as he realizes what he's done, he calls their father but he prefers escaping instead of confronting the family. When the family is reunited, in the end, we are left unable to know what are the conditions of the hospitalized brother (he could be dead or alive, we are not given any clue for this) and mother/father/child have their violent climax moment where the troubled son blames her mother for divorcing and ruining his family life. The father simply explains that things were not meant to keep them together and Thierry eventually moves on and grows. The last sequence is a series of shots in the house as it is emptied and sold to new owners. We move on the country roads near the house backwards as if Thierry's family history was to be removed necessarily.
The movie is very dramatic although the real dramatic moment comes in the end as a truly unexpected punch in your stomach. Some may find it too educational and deprived of visual and inventive power, but that's not the intention. Frnech movies are usually quite simple and classic and focusing on psychology and more thoughtful themes. Each performance is worthy of applause, especially Jeremie Renier (already seen in another great performance a few years ago in CRIMINAL LOVERS by Francois Ozon) and the evergreen Isabelle Huppert.
The French film, "Private Property," sets up a fierce battle of wills
between a divorced mother and the two ne'er-do-well sons (fraternal
twins) who still live with her. Pascale wants to sell the house and
open up a bed-and-breakfast with her new boyfriend, but the young men,
fearing the loss of the property that they believe should rightly go to
them, attempt to block any efforts in that direction.
With intelligent direction by Joachim Lafosse and incisive writing by Lafosse and Francois Pirot, this low-keyed family drama explores the complexities inherent in filial, sibling and marital relationships. The confrontation scenes, many of which take place during meal times (come to think of it, I don't believe I've seen this much eating in a film since "Babette's Feast"), are sharply drawn and effectively staged. The acting is excellent across the board, particularly that of Isabelle Huppert, as the middle-aged woman determined to finally start living for herself, and Jeremy Renier, as the more belligerent and self-centered of her two sons. Yannick Renier, Jeremy's brother in real life, is also very good as the more passive of the twins.
Some viewers may feel let down and frustrated by the inconclusive ending, but I enjoyed the ambiguity of it. We have been made privy to just one brief episode in the lives of these people - then it's time for us to move on.
Isabelle Huppert, who has A-list directors standing in line to work with her is celebrated for her willingness to help new writer-directors by lending her name to attract finance and her presence on set to attract audiences. This can, of course, prove embarrassing - Josie Balasko's first directorial effort Sac de Noeuds didn't exactly set the screen alight but Huppert was right to see the promise which has since been kept over and over - but on the other hand it can result in something as delightful as Aleandra Leclerc's Les Soeurs fachees (Huppert has a new film with Leclerc, Les Mediaturs, in post-production even as we speak). She got it right this time, too, with Joachim Lafosse who probably wouldn't have got this one off the ground without Huppert. Real-life brothers Jeremie and Yannick Renier play Huppert's twin sons who live with her in what was the family home til Huppert divorced their father Patrick Descamps, who has remarried and lives within driving distance with his new wife and child. The French title Nue Propriete, is more specific, a French legal term in which a family member, usually an ex-spouse, is allowed to live in a house but has no legal right to ownership so that they cannot, for example, sell it or take in lodgers. This, in fact is the position in which Huppert finds herself and as it happens she does want to sell, move away with a neighbour/lover and open a B&B. This brings us to the twins, neither of whom appears to have any friends although one has a girl he uses as a sex-object. Long before we, the audience, enter the scene, the boys have become dominant, especially Jeremie Renier who thinks nothing of interrogating his mother daily, verbally abusing her and going through her bag. It goes without saying that her attempt to introduce her lover to the twins is a disaster. This is a cloistered, unhealthy family with Huppert thinking nothing of taking a shower openly whilst one son cleans his teeth two or three feet away; a great deal of screen time is given over to meals, traditionally a time when families come together in harmony but not, of course, here. As usual Huppert gives a Master-Class in Screen acting but there isn't really a bad performance throughout. It's not exactly Feelgood but it is a fine film and worth anyone's time.
In my opinion, "Nue propriete" contains universal images which create a dramatic tension that is never absent from the film. There is, thank goodness, no comic relief to detract from the dire positions of the characters. Also, there are no mindless subplots which cause the characters to wander off in aimless directions. The most obvious classical theme, some would say biblical theme, is that of Cain and Abel, with Thierry as Cain. A modern reflection of OEDIPIUS REX is very obvious. Alas, poor Thierry is also somewhat like Hamlet, especially with Hamlet's insult of Gertrude in Shakespeare's bedroom scene, where the female parent is accosted by a barrage of language befitting a brothel. The Thierry-Hamlet image is manifest in the relation between Thierry and his girl friend, as with Hamlet and Ophelia. Thierry's hatred is also aimed toward Jan, his mother's new partner, much like Hamlet's dislike for his new father Claudius. Pascale, the mother in the film, reminds one of Nora in Ibsen's A DOLL HOUSE. Both women want out. The acting in "Nue propriete" is very good, the direction is a above average. This film is well worth seeing.
As a parent of three children, ages 16 to 20, I can say unequivocally that this wonderfully acted and deftly written and directed little film captures more about the relationships between modern youth and their baby-boomer parents than a dozen sociological tracts or studies could ever hope to achieve. On one level, the two sons are simply over-indulged, self-pitying and foul-mouthed brats, but that is far from the whole story. They are victims too, of a society in which self-fulfillment trumps parental duty and parents think that they can buy the loyalty and affection of their children with money and material goods. Not that this family is especially prosperous - in fact, they live an essentially hand to mouth existence, but still enjoy most of the fruits of modern Western culture - motorbikes, video games, etc. Isabelle Huppert is terrific as the long-suffering mother who is unable to confront her own children for fear of alienating them completely, so much so that she has to recruit a surrogate in an attempt to break through to them. Although the film is set in France the chords it strikes are universal. It makes you angry, frustrated and occasionally just overwhelmed - much like being parent of teenage boys.
In his first film "Nue Propriété"/"Private Property" Belgian director Joachim Lafosse films the progressive disintegration of a discontented middle class family.His film is a tragic tale of fragile relationships wherein all characters are weak and easily subdued due to their inseparable internal weaknesses.One can expect that a film with family breakdown would be incendiary.However,in "Private Property" rabble rousing is confined to a bare minimum level in order to make this film a veritable low key affair.This is done by quietly filming many scenes in which cinematically speaking nothing much happens.It is in these scenes that audiences are able to witness simple human activities such as family members eating their meals and two brothers playing an amusing Ping Pong game.As usual grand dame of French cinema Isabelle Huppert is brilliant in her role of a mother who has to deal with many different men in her life.Her character is developed in such a manner that it hangs between three different extremes.However,"Nue Propriete" appears credible due to strong acting performances by actors Jérémie Renier and Yannick Rénier who are brothers in real life.This is a film to watch in case if somebody is interested in witnessing how families are ruined.PS : Film critic Lalit Rao would like to thank a good friend Mr.Philippe Pham for having gifted a DVD of this film for detailed analysis.
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