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Ma Mere
Ma Mere
Actors: Philippe Duclos, Isabelle Huppert, Dominique Reymond, Emma de Caunes, Louis Garrel
Director: Christophe Honor
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     2005     1hr 39min

Challengingly stylish and original, Ma Mre is the story of Hlne (Isabelle Huppert), cool and in charge, her husband, and her teenage son Pierre (Louis Garrel), a pious Catholic boy back from boarding school. As Hlne confes...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Philippe Duclos, Isabelle Huppert, Dominique Reymond, Emma de Caunes, Louis Garrel
Director: Christophe Honor
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Family Life
Studio: TLA
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/18/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2004
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2004
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 39min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: French
Subtitles: English
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Movie Reviews

The Oedipus Complex with Variations from Novelist Georges B
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 10/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"'Ma mère' is a film on the edge. Director Christophe Honoré (who gave us the little jewel 'Closer to Leo') has adapted a tough book by Georges Bataille that explores incest, sadomasochism, love, family dysfunction, and nebulous moral values of conflicted adolescents caught in the web of sexual investigation. It is filled with difficult scenes and ideas and certainly is not a film for the faint of heart or spirit, but at the same time it is a brave film depicting the dissociative state of sexual mind to which we've come after the influences of such thinkers as Bataille, Foucault, Derida, Gide, and others. Christophe Honoré captures an impossible story extremely well on the screen!

17-year-old Pierre (Louis Garrel of `The Dreamers') is a spiritually challenged adolescent home from his Catholic school to be with his mother Hélène (Isabelle Huppert) whom he idolizes and loves and see his father (Philippe Duclos) who is distant in every sense. Hélène finds it necessary to inform Pierre of her background (her husband raped her when she was very young, causing such anguish that she has become addicted to a life of immorality as a means of escape), a means of warning him of what close association with her could mean. Pierre is blind to all things negative about Hélène and with the news of his father's death, he demands to be included in the wild sexual life of Hélène and her female lover Réa (Joana Preiss). Hélène is sexually attracted to Pierre and elects to include him in her games of voyeurism (watching Pierre during intercourse with Réa, introducing him to the shallow and compulsive Hansi (Emma de Caunes), mutilation, and all forms of debauchery.

The group goes to the sunny islands off Spain where Pierre falls in love with the dangerous Hansi and follows her lead in learning about his mother's strange and dangerous proclivities, sexual acts which include the involvement of young Loulou (Jean-Baptiste Montagut), a young man whom they torture for the sake of sexual satisfaction. All the while that Pierre is being introduced into Hélène's bizarre world he is conflicted by his superego in the form of the Catholic Church: he is seen reciting catechism in the desert surrounded by a silent, nude Greek chorus a la Fellini. Ultimately the 'vacation' is over and Pierre returns home with Hélène and the ultimate incestuous aspect of the Oedipus complex plays out in a completely bizarre and very dark way. To say more would destroy the impact of the ending.

Isabelle Huppert is brilliant as always, her quiet outwardly plain demeanor disguising the profoundly ill soul inside. Likewise Louis Garrel makes the fragile, gullible, needy and severely conflicted Pierre understandable: we may not agree with his choices as he wades through the strange waters of perversion, but we never lose sight of his vulnerability and passionate need to be loved. There is a lot of graphic sex in this film, but this particular story could not be told without it. Christophe Honoré manages this strange tale by letting the story take us into the realm of the unreal and he never for a moment loses our interest.

Even the music scoring is substantive, using Samuel Barber's own setting of his famous 'Adagio for Strings' for the choral 'Agnus Dei', most appropriately heard when Pierre is mentally visiting his spiritual conflicts with his corporal deeds. This is clearly not a film for everyone, but for those who admire the French cinema history of uncovering strange tales, this is a fine example. In French with English subtitles. Grady Harp, October 05
Mother of the Year
Vince Perrin | Stockton, CA USA | 11/03/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"You've got to respect Isabelle Huppert. She does not avoid shock or controversy in her choice of films and her performances in them. "Ma Mere" could not have been made without her, or at least not made as unblinkingly. Heterosexuality in all its permutations, save that of love and commitment, provides the subtext for this adaptation of Georges Bataille's postwar French novel. A teenager is just coming of age and coming home from boarding school where his hedonist mother is, literally, laying in wait. The novel's narrative, updated to today on a sandy vacation island, would be right at home in an ancient Greek theatre.

As she was in "The Piano Teacher," Huppert is cast opposite a man (Louis Garrell) young enough to be her son, which is precisely the point. The picture is really about him and how he is pimped out and ultimately seduced by his mother. He parades about naked and, in some perverse way, seems to be asking for it. Indeed, all the sexual couplings occur in full view of others. The eroticism (S&M, bondage, incest) never crosses over into pornography, but it just might at any time, giving "Ma Mere" a momentum it otherwise lacks. The bodies and locales are so beautiful it's hard to take your eyes away, even if your mind is off wandering a bit.
"MA MERE" richly-deserved the NC-17 rating.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 02/10/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Yesterday as I watched this film, I felt like, many others in here, somehow shocked by the dominant and explicit images. Yet it can't be said that this is merely done to make a controversial film.

The viewer gets a slowly developing picture of the relationship between mother and son, or more correctly of the adaptation of mother's lifestyle by her son. Lastly everybody is invited to morally review the relations, actions and sayings of the main characters. But as most viewers are likely to enjoy the "forbidden" relationships or explicit scenes, who are we to give criticism? Ma mère takes place in the Canary Islands, where the film's family shares a home. The mother Hélène (Isabelle Huppert), cool and in charge, and her teenaged son Pierre (Louis Garrel), a pious Catholic back from boarding school, discuss his father's infidelity; the next they hear, he is dead in a car crash. Hélène launches into a wild series of parties, gradually involving her son in her drugging, drinking and sex-fuelled nights out. When she mysteriously goes away, her son is left in the care of her mistress Réa (Joana Preiss) and Hansi (Emma de Caunes), an icy blonde sadist with whom he falls in love. As the film evolves, we realize that this is a period of initiation for the young man until his mother can return and fully bring him to sexual maturity and adulthood.

This film puts a whole new dimension in the concept of what is normal, allowed or understood as morally acceptable, plus the abrupt ending will leave the viewer a little bit disturbed.

Isabelle Huppert is great on this film. She goes from teaching piano lessons to workshopping intercourse without so much as a flinch. Her quiet outwardly plain demeanor disguising the profoundly ill soul inside. This also goes for Louis Garrel who makes the breakable, innocent, needy and severely conflicted Pierre logical: we may not agree with his choices as he wades through the strange waters of perversion, but we never lose sight of his vulnerability and passionate need to be loved. There are a number of sex scenes in this film that are necessary for this story to be told. Indeed, not a film for everyone, but for those who admire the French cinema and untouchable topics, shouldn't be a stranger to this. This DVD does have an 'alternate' ending so stick around for that too."
Profoundly sad and tragic
C. B Collins Jr. | Atlanta, GA United States | 02/28/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Underneath all the incest, sadomasochism, drugs, and orgies is a terrible tragedy. It is the tragedy of a young man in need of the love and guidance of supportive parents who is then cast into a world of wild hedonism by his mother.

A young man returns from Catholic boarding school in France to visit his parents in the Spanish Canary Islands. With the death of his father, the young man is swept up into the world of off-beat sexuality in which his mother engages on a nightly basis. We see a range of sexual adventures Pierre engages in first with his mother's girlfriend,Rea. His mother then sets him up with a young heart breaker beauty, wise beyond her years, named Hansi, with whom he falls in love. Thus, the mother insures he is initated into sexual intercourse and then falls in love as part of her plan to fully initiate her son into the adult world of sexual desire and fantasy.

Yet, the strength of the screenplay and the acting of Louis Garrel is that underneath it all we see a young adolescent man trying to seek his parents love and coming up shorthanded. As Pierre makes love to Rea in an after-hours shopping mall, his eyes follow his mother watching the public intercourse from a distance.

I did not find the film especially erotic, despite the vast range of sexual acts and nudism. Instead, I found it profoundly tragic and sad. The film breaks many taboos, but the most painful taboo broken was a mother who substitutes sexual initiation instead of affection and love for her only child. At one point you realize that Hlne, played very well by Isabelle Huppert, wants her son to experience all this hedonism so that he might understand her. If only she had made the slightest effort to understand him."