Dir. Christophe Honoré. 2004. NC-17. 110mins. Isabelle Huppert, Louis Garrel.
Not your mother, all right? Nobody is suggesting that this movie is saying something about your mother. Ma Mere is about Pierre's mother, Hélene. Pierre is French, and yes, French directors are still making movies about the eternal subject of French cinema: a young man being sexually initiated by a mother figure, or just wishing to be. Because Ma Mere is based on a novel by smutty philosopher Georges Bataille (The Story of the Eye), the incestuous agenda is literal, not figurative. And because mother is portrayed by Huppert—the icily sensuous actress who has delivered boundary-free performances for Godard, Benoit Jacquot and Claude Chabrol—the movie is guaranteed to go all the way.
After Pierre's tubercular-looking father is swiftly dispatched from their Canary Islands vacation house, Hélene consoles moody, pious, masturbating Pierre by involving him in her free-ranging sex life, which includes other women, a smorgasbord of orifices and knives. ("The pleasure begins only when the worm is in the fruit," says Helene in a line that sounds right out of Bataille.) Honoré also scripted the dramatically sound nymphet-sex-and-death-by-the-sea drama Girls Can't Swim, so he's not merely being shocking. Yet there's the kind of filmed erotic perversity that makes you want to have sex, or at least think about it, and movies that make you want to never have sex again. Ma Mere is the latter kind of movie. (Opens Fri; Landmark's Century Centre.)—Justine Elias