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4.4 out of 5 stars
In the House
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 12, 2013
Format: DVD
When watching Francois Ozon's `In the House', I was repeatedly reminded of Atom Egoyan's `Adoration'. Both films tackle the idea of obsession and fabrication as unified entities and interwoven truths, and both carry and heaviness about them that seems rooted in something concealed.

But then, with regards to `In the House', things start to shift, tonally.

This is where `In the House' rises above being yet another `clever film' and becomes something more, something substantial. It's not merely clever, it's remarkably astute and says so much for those very subjects thanks to an almost witty and playful shift in nature. Ozon's directorial achievement here is easily overlooked, but he handles the film's core with such organic grace. He allows the film's finale to coat over the audience, pandering to us without giving in to obvious manipulations. The homage to films like `Rear Window' (this is vastly superior, but I know I'm in the minority when it comes to that film) makes for something truly rewarding, and that final shot is especially effective `because' of the buildup created by Ozon. Yes, as the film descends into the depths of Ozon's painted portrayal of roving eyes and wandering minds, the audience is taken for a ride they won't soon forget.

And thanks to that finale, they'll continue to recall and dissect.

`In the House' tells of a partnership of sorts that forms between a precocious young student and his English teacher. Claude is deeply affected by his family life and the perceived perfection of a middle class family he attempts to draw close to. Latching onto his classmate, Rapha, Claude finds a way to weasel his way into their lives and begins to write about it for his class project. His teacher, Germain, is at first almost repulsed by the distain and judgmental attitude with which Claude writes about this family, but he is also instantly intrigued and soon begins to encourage and even aid Claude in his infiltration of his family's life. Claude becomes like a son to Rapha Senior and becomes an object of desire and escape for Rapha's mother, Esther. But more than that, Claude becomes a form of voyeuristic escape for Germain, who lives through Claude's words, dissecting their worth and prodding Claude to `create his own truth' by altering his story with creative liberties, obviously convincing Claude to take those liberties within his own reality.

The conclusion is deeply profound, and distinctly creative.

The way that Ozon weaves his screenplay to tackle such deeply rooted subjects of family life, childhood adolescence, the loss of innocence and even sexual boundaries (the brief glimpses of homosexuality and the sexual friction between father and son are brilliant flickers of thought) is outstanding and really shows a depth of identity that transcends the film's seeming gimmick of manipulated storylines.

Ozon plays with his actors like pawns, and they all (for the most part) fit into their mold perfectly. Fabrice Luchini is outstanding as the film's morally corrupted center. He portrays the fibers of Germain's intrigue to perfection, especially as the film spirals to a close. Ernst Umhauer (who looks a tad like Ezra Miller) plays to the camera too much in the end (he tries too hard to get into the spirit of the tonal shifts), but for the most part he plays off of Luchini rather well. Both Seigner and Scott Thomas are marvelous here. Seigner has a quite storm within her, but her character's final arc is almost too subtle. Scott Thomas, on the other hand, builds to such a tremendous break here that I was completely blown over by her progression of character.

For me though, the star here is Denis Menochet. It doesn't hurt that he is incredibly handsome and hard not to look at, but he is the best fit for the continually shifting tonal avenues in the film. He understands the layer of caricature that is needed to sell Claude's story, and when he does have his bit scenes (his angry confrontation with Luchini and his tearful confession to Seigner), he blows everyone else out of the water.

For me, `In the House' was a real surprise. I wasn't sure what I was getting into when I turned it on, and for the film's first two thirds it felt almost too heavy or unsure of its footing and yet it all came together remarkably well in the final act, where Ozon ties up every loose end and identifies the honesty within the core relationship in the film, making everything make sense in a way that lingers in the audience's mind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Blu-ray
French director François Ozon has quickly, and from out of nowhere, become one of my all time favorite contemporary filmmakers. His movies almost always challenge expectations and serve up something that feels altogether unique. That's a commendable rarity in this world of cookie-cutter plots and stories that appeal to the lowest common denominator. When François Ozon makes a film, it still has the ability to surprise. But lest I scare you away from a resume that includes great films like "8 Women" (a personal favorite). "Swimming Pool," "Potiche," and "Jeune & Jolie," I will also say that his films are eminently entertaining as well. You don't have to be a film snob to love Ozon, you just have to love originality. From this introduction, you can anticipate that I expected to enjoy "In The House." I did. What I didn't really expect, however, is the degree to which I would have passion about this movie. I loved it and it may now be my new favorite Ozon!

"In the House" is a terrific character study, a subversive comedy, and a sly intersection of fact and fiction. Its entire structure is based on a series of clever manipulations. Every character manipulates every other character in one form or another and the movie itself entices and manipulates the viewer with a somewhat unreliable narrator. Fabrice Luchini plays a disillusioned literature professor. A once promising author, Luchini has given up any form of artistic endeavor. As a new term starts, he is uninspired by his current crop of students but sees promise in the personal essay of a young Ernst Umhauer (in a star making performance). Umhauer's story tells of how he insinuated himself into the house of a fellow student and is a subtle condemnation of bourgeoisie values. The story is left with the promise of "too be continued" and subsequent chapters have the young man reaching further and further into the family life of his new friend. Is he a sociopath? Or is he simply a needy kid that doesn't fit in? Despite the protests of his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas), Luchini grows closer to his student and starts to become a part of the story.

Nothing that I can say here can relay the sophistication and complexity of Ozon's structure. The kid manipulates Luchini while Luchini (oftentimes aided by comments from Scott Thomas) starts to manipulate the story. Sometimes, however, both forget that real people are involved. And their actions do have real world consequences. But the entire project turns into an obsession and a rather unhealthy one. Somewhat creepy, somewhat sweet, and frequently amusing, this is an extremely hard movie to categorize and that's what I love about it. I never knew where the story was headed and the outcome was both foreseeable but also unexpected. The cast is top notch. But the intricate screenplay is also a huge part of the success of "In The House." Smart and entertaining, I can't recommend this highly enough. KGHarris, 2/14.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
This is quite simply a delightful and engrossing French film. It tells the story of Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), he is a student at Lycee Gustave Flaubert and a bit of a loner. He specialises in maths, but has written an essay for his cynical and dismissive literature teacher, Professor Germain (Fabrice Lucini `The Women on the Sixth Floor'). In it he tells how he had become obsessed with entering a school mate's house, just to be with a `normal' middle class family. His mother having left and him having to care for a father he clearly has little in common with has left him on the periphery of life where he seems to be more of a spectator than a participant.

His essay details how he managed to inveigle his way into the home and what his thoughts and feelings were. He ends his essay with `to be continued'; it is the best piece of creative writing Germain has seen in a long while and he encourages his young charge to continue. This he does with increasing flair and increasing artifice.

What started out as well written reportage quickly becomes a blur of fact and fiction. The resulting release of emotions for all involved soon leads to circumstances spiralling out of control. Kristen Scott-Thomas plays Madame Germain, she runs a modern art gallery that has some truly uninspiring and ludicrous exhibits check out the `penile swastika' to give you a taste. Her job is juxtaposed to her husbands and the increasing obsession he has with the `story' compared with her struggling in the reality of her life.

This is just a sublime film, director François Ozon has made a film that is perfectly balanced, billed as a thriller, mystery, it is also a bit of a comedy and a study in obsession and the inter relationships that can happen just by chance in ones life. Every single player puts in great performances and the direction and attention to detail is outstanding. This was released as `Dans la maison' and it is in French with very good sub titles and runs for 106 minutes, but it seemed a lot less. Just brilliant for all Francophiles and lovers of European, stylish cinema.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
"Dans La Maison" (2012 release from France; 108 min.; US title "In The House") brings several parallel stories: first we meet 16 yr. old Claude, a high school student at the Lycee Flaubert who, in a class assignment on "what was my weekend like", turns in a long story about how he finally was able to get invited by one of his classmates to spend time in their house, which (for reasons not fully explained) Claude had been dreaming about for a long time. Claude's teacher grades the writing assignment a B+ and encourages Claude to keep writing more. The teacher also shares this with his wife, who we later learn runs an art gallery that may be shut down at any time. She too is fascinated by the writings of Claude. A good part of the movie consists of reading/seeing Claude's latest updates on what is going on "in the house", and how it affect/may affect the teacher and his wife, as well as the family of Claude's classmate. To tell you more of the plot would ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: this movie is being billed (in US media anyway) as a "suspense/thriller" and while there is a certain element of mystery in the movie, this is NOT a suspense/thriller, even when at a certain point in the movie we do not know anymore whether the writings of Claude are a true reflection of past events, or whether they are a version of events as Claude had hoped they would go. This is a talk-movie and leans towards being a comedy, if anything. Writer-director François Ozon does a great job with the pacing of the movie, introducing new elements at the right time to keep us interested in the movie from start to finish. Ernst Umhauer is an up-and-coming talent and just great in the role of Claude, a slightly creepy character (check out the closing scenes of the movie!), but Fabrice Luchini as the teacher and Kirsten Scott Thomas as his wife are equally memorable.

The screening where I saw this at (the E Street Landmark Theatre in Washington DC) this past weekend was absolutely packed, and the movie even got an applause from the audience as the closing credit started to roll. This is will you a good indication of the entertainment value of this movie. If you are in the mood for a top notch quality foreign movie that is miles away from your standard Hollywood fare, you cannot go wrong with this. "In The House" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2013
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
The plot takes place in 21st century France and concerns a student with a penchant for writing. His choice of topic is the plot for this foreign film. I found it sort of a mixture of the 1957 film "Payton Place" and a soap opera like "As the Stomach Churns" that my late mother was so fond of watching. But what really makes this movie a truly great one, is its complicated and extremely unpredictable plot. Sixteen year-old Claude is manipulative, clever, sophisticated, sly, and somewhat of a Don Juan with older women. His manipulation of his teacher, his teacher's wife, his best friend's parents, his best friend's mother in particular, and his social-climbing tactics are astonishing. Most teenage boys want to score, but this one goes where no other teen has gone before. Although the ending is unpredictable it is a perfect conclusion that leaves the audience with a sense of continuance as Claude and his teacher come face to face in a park. The one drawback of this film is, unless your French is very good, the English subtitles flash by in an attempt to keep pace with the fast-moving conversations of the actors. As a former High School English teacher, I found this film a lesson in the complexities of the adolescent mind that even I had never encountered during my career. If foreign language films are not your thing, this film will not appeal to you. But for those who enjoy the foreign film genre, this one is a must see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2013
Format: DVD
In the House is about a teacher,Germain(Luchini), disillusioned with the bureaucracy, who teaches literature to his French students.He is married to Jeanne(Scott Thomas), who runs a gallery.He is entranced by gifted newcomer,16 year old Claude(Umhauer),who rises to the challenge set by Germain,to "write about what you did last week-end". This is like opening a pandora's box as Claude delivers continuing reports of his schoolfriend's(Rapha's) homelife,into whose house he's gained entry on the basis of helping him with maths.He gives a voyeuristic exposure of the father,Rapha,the mother, Esther(Seigner),and his desire for her underneath the banal life of the household,while seducing the expectant teacher with his talent.The genius of Flaubert hovers over their joint venture,as Germain puts to Claude the question:"Parody or realism?"while giving him extra lessons after school,so that Claude can continue writing his stories,to sustain audience interest Germain repeats"What is going to happen?"Story-telling is the film's structuring device.The film engages the mind rather than heart and has a strong nod to both Henry James(house of fiction)and Hitchcock's voyeuristic idea of the artist-as-spy in Rear Window.We also sense that great Rivette film,Celine and Julie Go Boating(girls get lost in a "house of fiction"). This is a black comedy,cautionary tale and psychological thriller as the childless Germain develops a father/son relationship with Claude,whose emerging talent depends on his only reader's encouragement,editing.

Germain warns Claude against caricature,gossip,art-catologue soft-focus,farce and "Barbara Cartland".The aim is to present things as they really are,plausibility rather than factuality.Claude and his teacher are at times present in the household they are shaping. Claude's writing moves from diary to metafiction;Ozon providing audio-visual rendering of Claude's stories.Photography isn't a truth-teller here but the best liar an illusionist ever had.Claude defends himself against Germain's criticisms, saying "I write what I see", but observations spur his imagination into speculation.The two leads Umhauer and Luchini carry the film,acquiring emotional depth whenthey lose everything,but choose to live in the house of fiction over reality.Scott Thomas is perfect as the shifting, brittle Jeanne,who is bored and embodies attitudes against which her husband can rail.Seigner is brilliant as the sleepy,latent Esther.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2013
Format: DVD
Based on a play by Spanish writer Juan Mayorga, François Ozon’s latest work “In the House” (“Dans la maison”) follows the unusual story of Germain (Fabrice Luchini), a tired and disillusioned French teacher at Gustave Flaubert High School). One day he discovers a 16-year-old student with talent for writing in his class; he is Claude Garcia (Ernst Umhauer), who has done his homework by vividly describing what he experienced in his friend Rapha’s house.

Germain decides to take Claude under his wing and starts teaching about writing, but Claude’s writing gets more and more real – and alarmingly so, with descriptions about Rapha’s mom Esther (Emmanuelle Seigner), to whom, it seems, Claude is attracted. While Germain’s private lesson develops into battle of wits, Germain’s wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) gets interested in Claude’s story.

Like in some of Ozon’s works, the world he describes is unique in blurring the line between fiction and reality. Claude as an imaginative and creative writer slowly takes the lead in telling the “story,” which could be fiction after all. Everything is done smoothly and stylishly, while players effectively become seemingly impossible characters.

For all these merits, however, I couldn’t help feeling, well, in short, so what? The stagy film intrigues us with its unique set-up, but what follows is not really surprising. “In the House” has a well-told story, but the story, intelligent and interesting as it is feels very distant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
This movie was terrific. The actors had great chemistry and comedic timing. Fabrice Luchini was the standout, but there was not a bad performance from any of the cast!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant VideoVerified Purchase
Loved it. Claude was a phenomenal character and the twistedness was so intriguing. I'd watch it again and recommend it highly to anyone.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 2, 2013
Format: DVD
I am a big fan of Francois Ozon's Under the Sand and The Swimming Pool (another film about a writer who blurs the line between reality and fiction) but this one doesn't measure up to the standard set by those two earlier works. In the House is much lighter and less intriguing and ultimately leaves you with very little to ponder. The film examines an unusual bond between a somewhat imaginative writing student and a teacher but Ozon broadcasts a little too loudly that the student's only real talent is listening to what adults say and then saying back to them what he thinks they want to hear, so not much in the way of suspense and not much mystery either. The only real interest is in trying to figure what is motivating student and teacher. The solution to neither mystery is particularly compelling (although, to be fair, it is somewhat surprising that they both seem to be attracted to literature for the same reason). As I watched I just couldn't stop thinking about how much better this film could have been.
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