“In the House”: Hitchcock Gets Meta

Yes, the French still love Jerry Lewis, but they also still love Hitchcock — irrepressibly, deconstructively. More an impassioned thriller-study than an actual thriller per se, this peppy little number from director François Ozon sometimes giddily approaches farce. In a good way. An otherwise uninspired high school literature teacher (Fabrice Luchini), encouraged by his otherwise uninspired gallerist wife (Kristin Scott-Thomas), winds up risking both job and marriage to mentor a star pupil (Ernst Unhauer) with a gift for spinning clever yarns. These include nervy and not wholly fictional dispatches from stints spying on the family of a classmate (Bastien Ughetto), particularly the fellow student's sexy mom (Emmanuelle Seigner). “There's a way into every house,” the emboldened kid eventually tells his teacher, oozing gratitude and creepy confidence. With increasing obsessiveness, meanwhile, his stories play out before our eyes, sometimes responding directly, and aggressively, to teacherly critique. Ozon seems to be running some analysis on the implications of voyeurism in storytelling, be it literary or cinematic, all the while assuredly working his way toward a climactic Rear Window-like tableau. What's most fun, though, is how lively it all is; everybody in this meta-narrative goof is at least a little slippery, a little weird.

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