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Review: Private Property

Joachim Lafosse’s Private Property might be considered a companion piece to L’Enfant.

Private Property
Photo: New Yorker Films

Joachim Lafosse’s Private Property might be considered a companion piece to L’Enfant. Jérémie and Yannick Renier star as Thierry and François, petulant twin sons of Pascale (Isabelle Huppert), a hip divorcee who entertains selling her home after her lover asks her to move in with him. Pascale and her children appear close, and though the viciousness with which she treats their father when he swings by unannounced to her home would be enough to turn any child against their mother, it is not until the woman announces her autonomy that their fangs come out. Though Lafosse’s aesthetic seems to consist entirely of propping his camera six or seven feet from his actors and leaving them to their own devices, he actively resists getting Georges Bataille on our derrieres: There is no Oedipal struggle connecting Pascale to her sons, and when the young men take a bath together, not only is the scene completely justified, it is also—sorry, pervs—completely unerotic. Restraint is Lafosse’s game, and he plays it well, though not as finely as his actors illustrate the film’s thesis about the female body as prime real estate. Pascale’s happy relationship to her children is something of a façade, which is evident as soon as she starts dancing around the issue of her relationship with Jan (Kris Cuppens). Huppert, most of us know, can do anything, and what she achieves here is almost as grandiose as the straight face she kept during Lily Tomlin’s meltdown on the set of I Heart Huckabees. Connecting to the great struggle of Kate Chopin’s main character from The Awakening, Pascale is suffocated by the expectations of her children, ex-husband, and lover, all of whom reject her in their own way when her ambitions discount their personal comfort. Huppert’s state of dead-end panic during one scene is an example of how she keeps the story at a human level, preventing it from becoming some stale and intellectual homily about female emancipation, giving tragic expression to the ethos of a great Godard film: My Life to Life.

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jérémie Renier, Yannick Renier, Kris Cuppens, Raphaelle Lubansu, Patrick Descamps, Didier de Neck, Dirk Tuypens, Sabine Riche Director: Joachim Lafosse Screenwriter: Joachim Lafosse Distributor: Red Envelope Entertainment and New Yorker Films Running Time: 95 min Rating: NR Year: 2006 Buy: Video

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