REVIEW: Abuse of Weakness

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Abuse of Weakness
Directed by: Catherine Breillat
Written by: Catherine Breillat
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Kool Shen, Laurence Ursino and Christophe Sermet

Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness is the semi-autobiographical story of a struggling director whose latest film is impeded by pseudo-romantic entanglement and a debilitating stroke.  The first 20 or so minutes of this movie are profoundly horrifying, as Breillat hovers over Maud (Isabelle Huppert) being jolted out of sleep by that stroke.  “Half of my body is dead!” she yells to an emergency dispatcher on the phone.

Huppert’s intensely physical performance in this moment and in the rest of the film are crucial to its success, and Breillat films her agony at an often disturbingly close proximity. Abuse of Weakness doesn’t feel intrusive, though, because it is fused with Maud’s subjectivity and not simply a chronicle of her gradually losing her dignity.

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