Abuse of Weakness ★★★★

Begins with a Hitchcockian dolly up to Huppert as some sort of spirit seems to possess her, as the woman moves out of the bed and drops right out of the frame—a sadistic spatial punch line. A film about possession: of the body, of others, of financial security. Like a good hard boiled novel, Brelliat mashes two seemingly indistinct plots together (the stroke and subsequent loss of arm movement; the relationship with Kool Shen's macho prisoner) and makes them essentially a commentary on each other. Like Rohmer, Brelliat presents a very simple mise-en-scene: shots are not particularly expressive, but they are distinctive in making us think about the psychology of the characters and the way she edits characters into space. Huppert is a small person and she is often framed as such, except whenever she is trying to take control, suddenly becoming empowered in symmetrical centered close-ups. Meanwhile, Shen's physicality is always on display—the actor is rarely ever still.

This allows Brelliat to mine the possession narrative: how Huppert allows herself to be taken advantage of financially in order to create her own sense of domination. Brelliat sees domination thus as two-folded, the master-slave narrative is a two way street needing both parties to agree, where the slave can mistake him or herself for the master. That Huppert is playing a director only plays into the fact that she wants to be directed herself—the sado-masochism of course comes through financially instead of sexually, a weird play that keeps this all in metaphysical thematic space while still being a very physical movie. This makes Brelliat's quietly pointed compositions and mise-en-scene at times both humorous and frightening: the awkward way the tiny Huppert lies in the wondrously comfortable giant bed explicates the paradox of how the character embraces her own state as a prisoner.

In the final confrontation, Huppert tells her family, "It was me, but it was not me," confirming the way the film plays closer to The Exorcist or Possession. That Brelliat has based this all on her own history only adds another strange dimension, though it's unnecessary to know. We all enjoy being possessed at some point.

Peter liked this review