A stroke puts filmmaker Maud Shainberg (Isabelle Huppert) into hospital, where her recovery involves months of gruelling physiotherapy. She emerges with limited movement on her right side, but vows to continue her career with the force of ‘an atomic bomb’. Against her producer’s advice, for her next project she casts a notorious real-life con artist (played by rapper Kool Shen), but the flirtatious relationship between director and leading man is to have disastrous real-life consequences for her finances. How could a supposedly intelligent woman put herself in such a situation?
Catherine Breillat is definitely the one to ask, since this unlikely scenario precisely mirrors events in her own life. This autobiographical chronicle refuses to offer easy explanations however, since the maker of ‘Romance’ and ‘A Ma Soeur!’ has never been one for compromise or sentiment. While we sympathise with the vulnerable protagonist, her actions are indeed confounding, prompting us to ponder the underlying battle of the sexes, played out as a game of control and bluff since sexuality’s no longer in the equation.
Fascinating stuff, it’s unfortunately dramatically rather inert, though Huppert’s startlingly intense central performance is faultless – physically convincing and emotionally mesmerising as she embodies Breillat’s kaleidoscope of contradictions.