Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ozon's Hideaway (2009) ✭✭✭1/2

Hideaway is a simple drama told with uncharacteristic restraint by Francois Ozon. The film is all about wounded souls who escape the pressures of city life and attempt to repair themselves in an ivy-covered cottage on the French coast. Ozon takes a break as well, forsaking his typical flights of strange and, on occasion, shocking fancy to channel his pastoral inner-Rohmer. While the film is bookended with dark and dangerous textures, its sprawling middle is leisurely sedate, and replete with life’s unhurried pleasures.

Isabelle Carre, who excels at evoking repressed turmoil, stars as a privileged young woman named Mousse. She and her ersatz bohemian boyfriend Louis – played by Melvil Poupard, star of A Summer’s Tale and perhaps another Ozonian nod to Rohmer – spend their days shacked up in a Parisian rental property owned by Louis’s mother (the icy Claire Vernet). Heroin has become the center of their lives and Ozon effectively depicts the crushing depression junkies endure while awaiting their next fix.

Mousse awakens in the hospital to learn that Louis has fatally overdosed, and only last minute intervention by paramedics saved her from a similar fate. In the process, it’s discovered that she’s pregnant with Louis’s child, and now faces a wrenching decision. At Louis’s funeral, she meets his sympathetic brother Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy), but the rest of the family makes it very clear they want no part of Mousse or her unborn child.

Ozon shifts the story ahead about 6 months and Paris’s damp grays give way to the bright, dappled splendor of Aquitaine in summer. Mousse has taken residence in a remote stone gite, far from the madding crowd, where the gentle sea breezes comfort her – and her now bulbous belly – in this hour of grief. But Mousse’s hermetic life is interrupted by a visitor, as Paul stops by on his way to a vacation in Spain. And what begins as a brief family visit begins to morph into a roadmap for either Mousse’s salvation, or her final retreat from the outside world.

While much of the film is played as peaceful reverie, there are darker elements of a spiritual battle, tempering Hideaway’s lighter moments with a bittersweet edge. Mousse’s baby bump becomes a sort of totem highly prized by everyone except the mother, including Rohmer regular Marie Rivere who has a brief cameo. Paul’s presence is an effort to establish clarity and a moral compass in Mousse’s torpid world of methadone and self pity. But Ozon presents with a reductive lens; moral questions and Biblical allusions subtly flavor but never dominate.

The film’s ending is surprising, but logical, and we realize that Paul may have been a little too effective as Mousse’s redeemer. While Eric Rohmer’s innocent airheads embarked on seaside idylls to escape the pitfalls of romance, Francois Ozon prescribes a similar therapy for the bigger perils of our age. And with Hideaway, gives audiences a pleasant dose of palliative waters.


Deborah said...

As always, great writing about what sounds an interesting film. Though not one I'll be watching, I think.

Funnily enough, I saw Ozon's Swimming Pool last week, another with a holiday theme. Enjoyable, with the kind of awkward humour that makes you snort with laughter, though you're not entirely sure whether you're supposed to be laughing. (I think we were, but even so...very French.)

Doug Stephens said...

Does everyone in this movie go around and touch her baby belly? Because that's kind of weird.

Bunched Undies said...

Deborah: A number of friends are big fans of Ozon, so I'm attempting to acquire a taste. I enjoyed Swimming Pool as well, though it left me kind of dumbfounded.

Bunched Undies said...

Doug: Indeed, most of the principles do touch her belly at one point or another, and it's not considered a big deal. It would never occur to me to ask a pregnant lady for permission to touch her belly. Maybe it's a European custom. Here in Arizona, I'd be afraid the woman would shoot me.

Bob of Holland said...

Thanks, Bunchie, for this inspiring review. I didn't like some of the later Ozon films, but this one really seems worthwhile again.

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