French provocateur Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl) delves into her own discomfiting history with a scam artist in her difficult but rewarding drama. Maud Schoenberg (Isabelle Huppert, in one of her finest performances) is a filmmaker who suffers a stroke and, during recovery, falls under the spell of a hustler—played by enticingly rugged hip-hop performer Kool Shen—whom she wants to cast in her new project. (Breillat herself had a stroke in 2004 and soon after was bilked out of a small fortune by the notorious swindler Christophe Rocancourt.) Abuse of Weakness feels like a personal exorcism, unsentimental in its presentation of illness and especially tough (neither apologetic nor pitiable) in the way it views the often irrational behavior of Breillat’s onscreen surrogate. It’s another fascinating entry in the director’s ongoing exploration of the sadistic and masochistic facets of human behavior.
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