By all accounts Catherine Breillat‘s new, unflinchingly autobiographical film “Abuse of Weakness” (based on her novel of the same name), starring Isabelle Huppert as a thinly veined on-screen equivalent for the director, is brilliant but just as tough to watch as the director’s other films. Based on the first clip released from the film (you can watch below), which just debuted online, you can see why: there’s a palpable sense of discomfort, made all the more queasy by Breillat’s photographic and editorial choices.
In the film, Huppert’s director character Maud hires a criminal named Vilko (Kool Shen, is this seriously his name?) to star in her new film and, of course, gets swindled in the process. In the sequence that just popped online, she is interviewing Vilko for the job, and he is very upfront about his lawless past. The scene is brief but illuminating, and not just in what is conveyed between the characters but what Breillat gets across with her staging an editing.
Breillat has each actor sitting in a different location (Huppert on a couch, Sheen on a chair), and cuts between the two without any coverage with them in the same frame. It adds a discerning rhythm to the scene, which is compacted by the fact that the two shots are so different. With Huppert, she sits tiny on the couch, sometimes looking like Lily Tomlin in the “Incredible Shrinking Woman.” The entire scene feels wildly uncomfortable, with an almost sadomasochistic subtext between the two characters, and if this is what watching two minutes of the movie is like, we’re not sure if we can handle the entire thing.
The movie just screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and will next screen at the New York Film Festival. No release date has been scheduled (yet).