MA MERE (MY MOTHER) (NC-17)  *

 

Directed by Christophe Honore. 110 minutes.

Starring Isabelle Huppert, Louis Garrel, Emma de Caunes, Joana Preiss and Jean-Baptiste Montagut. Released by TLA Releasing.

 

Ma Mere is a film about sex and humiliation and it has the emotional maturity of an episode of Jackass. This is a film about idiots, played by smart people. Among the many questions I pondered during this film, one of the recurring ones was how the director, Christophe Honore, convinced an actress as talented and daring as Isabelle Huppert to take part in this rubbish. How did he convince her to involve herself in a film as juvenile and intellectually childish as this one? Also on my long list of questions was whether I left my air conditioner on while attending this movie.

 

The story, which is a word I am using generously here in order to complete this review, involves a self-proclaimed “bitch” and “slut,” played by Huppert, who inherits her son (played by Louis Garrel, of 2004’s The Dreamers, a movie that dealt with sex a little more honestly), from her husband, from whom she can best be described as “estranged.” Why Garrel moves in with mom is not really explained very well. Nor is the father’s death, which takes place, conveniently, in order to set up the sordid things to come.

 

Garrel’s character- Pierre-  is, in a word or two, a complete jerk. He walks around naked in front of the house’s two servants, who, by all common sense, should demand raises, and eats junk food incessantly. Pierre also masturbates on his father’s pornography collection, and then urinates on it. I’m sure the filmmakers see the act as symbolic, while the rest of us roll our eyes. For the sake of realism, we are given a close up of Garrel’s penis as he urinates.

 

Then, for some inexplicable reason, Huppert begins prostituting her son around. At a bar in which a group of rowdy, drunken college age men sing and flash their genitals, Huppert joins in as Pierre broods on the beach. She enlists the help of several of her particularly screwed-up friends to jump in the sack with her son. One inserts her finger into his rectum, sniffs it, passes the finger to Huppert for her to smell and then plops it into Garrel’s mouth.

 

Then, mom disappears and we are stuck with Pierre, the wretch. He has sex with a number of good-looking women and struts around naked on the beach. He also makes a few passes at Huppert when she arrives out of the blue. Then, he convinces one particularly beautiful girl to tie up her childhood friend, a servant played by Jean-Baptiste Montagut, and beat him with a whip until he lies crying on the floor. Pierre comments that his mother would be proud of all of them.

 

This all leads up to a final scene in which Huppert returns to sleep with her son, and an unexplainable and remarkably silly death ensues. The sex scene does as well, if you know what I mean. Then, the Turtles’ “Happy Together” clangs onto the soundtrack for either the most ridiculous attempt at irony in film history or a misguided attempt at playing upon the emotions of the audience. Either way, it is a bad, bad choice of music. Then, the film ends with a masturbation sequence. I think this scene should have opened the film. That way, the audience would realize that they are going to sit through two hours of immature directorial masturbation and could, at that moment, decide whether they are up to the task or sneak out to another theater where another film, most likely better than this one, is playing.

 

That being said, Huppert and Garrel must be commended, for they give decent performances, considering what inane material they have to work with. Director Honore appears to have nothing interesting to say with this film, which is why neither heads nor tails can be made of what he is trying to say. This material has been handled much better before (see Murmur of the Heart for an example). Ma Mere is simply shock value for the sake of shock value. Nothing new or interesting is being said here. For that matter, nothing is being said here. The film should have been called Ma Merde.