Beguiling, the kind of intimate human story that never gets made in America anymore. In the House (French, in English subtitles) follows the entanglement of a pushy teacher (Fabrice Luchini) and a precocious 16-year old student (Ernst Umhauer). The class assignment is to write about a typical, lame topic – What happened over the weekend? Teacher Germain comes across Claude’s paper, which turns a mundane visit at a friend’s house into a visit of tantalizing possibilities. Instead of praising the paper at first, the envious teacher criticizes it and instructs the student to write more purposefully. The teacher eventually falls in loves with his student’s story as it progresses into new chapters.
Claude is merely writing about his experiences of being a tutor to classmate Rapha (Bastien Ughetto). He writes about Rapha’s mother’s “middle class odor” and “middle class housedress” but there is promise of forbidden teen / older woman hanky-panky. Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner, your typical hot French mother) feels intimidation, then tingles, when she is around 16-year old Claude – just a boy, but such an impressive intellect. Then there’s Rapha’s father (Denis Menochet), a businessman and a brute who watches basketball and complains about his clients. Claude becomes a second son to him, unaware of this strange boy’s flirtations with his wife.
A myriad of what-if possibilities propels this simple scenario into high drama. Germain and his art dealer wife Jeanne (Kristen Scott Thomas, like a wilted flower yearning to bloom again) spend their bedtime hours discussing Claude’s written stories in class, because it’s like… a turn-on. But are Claude’s writings a piece of fiction or are they true exploits? Germain, intrigued beyond reason, bends the school rules so he can continue to push Claude to write more, live more, risk more. With disregard to professional ethics, Germain urges Claude to take on new provocative measures at Rapha’s house so his story can get more interesting.
Potential human damage is at stake. This is what happens when a teacher lives vicariously through his student. Something sinister is also at work, too. With manipulative guile, Claude becomes an opportunist when he realizes he can control the emotions of his teacher. “In the House,” by Francois Ozon (“Potiche,” “Swimming Pool”), is intelligent entertainment that’s ticklish to the higher senses, and the basest senses too.
105 Minutes. Unrated. French in English subtitles.
FOREIGN FILM / FOOD FOR THOUGHT MOVIE / NIGHTTIME GIGGLES
Film Cousins: “Murmur of the Heart” (1972, France); “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995); “Intimate Strangers” (2004, France); “The Class” (2008, France).