Ma Mere

The work of Georges Bataille is full of weird imagery and debauched sexuality. One would think that it would transition well into some very strange, psychosexual films, but this is not yet the case. Last year, The Story of the Eye was released, but not in any theaters. It tried to blur the line between pornography and art, but fell short on both accounts. Ma Mere is the second try; it tones down the sexual content (but is still rated NC-17) but still comes off as a bit too random and detached. Part of this stems from the sex, which is not erotic, nor is it meant to be. It is almost a series of trials for Pierre (Louis Garrel, The Dreamers, The War in Paris).

Pierre finds himself in the Canary Islands living with his mother, Helene (Isabelle Huppert, I [Heart] Huckabees, Merci Pour le Chocolat) for the first time. She was absent when he was growing up, and is a complete stranger to him. Life is a shock to Pierre, as Helene lives a hedonistic lifestyle, full of partying, alcohol, and lots and lots of sex. Pierre is drawn to Helene's friend/lover Rea (Joanna Preiss, Late August, Early September, La Nuit Sera Longue). Rea, with the permission of Helene, teases Pierre. The women are playing some sort of game with Pierre, luring him with the promise of sex, but abandoning him at the last minute.

After Rea finally allows Pierre to indulge, he begins to have some pretty unhealthy feelings towards his mother. Once they act upon them, Helene leaves, leaving Hansi (Emma de Caunes, Lovers of the Nile, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra) to continue to toy with Pierre. Unlike the Rea, she seems to show real affection for him, but there still seems to be some distance between the two. Ma Mere unfolds like a weird dream, which is what writer/adapter Christophe Honore (Novo, Seventeen Times Cecile Cassard) wanted. The issue is that the Pierre character is a little too naive to be believable.

Sure, he's thrust into this bizarre world where there are no inhibitions, but Garrel alternates between acting like a petulant child to looking befuddled. Honore takes all the emotion out of the act of sex. While Pierre craves sex with Rea and Hansi, he feels despondent once something actually happens. He is lost in a mix of conflicting emotions, with the lust for his mother overriding everything else. Huppert, normally a strong actress, does not have much of role to work with. Honore is primarily concerned with setting a mood, and apparently trying to shock the viewer. Instead of a continuous aura drenched in sexuality and danger, Ma Mere drags in places, separated by fairly explicit scenes of sex.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 50 minutes, French, and a bit of English, Spanish, and German with English subtitles, Rated NC-17 for aberrant sexuality.

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