Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher) plays a daring role as Hélène, the mother of a sheltered religious boy who has yet to jump the transcendence from boy to man. He represents a spiritual force of one who should be sympathized with as he crosses a point as loveless virgin to sadist. try as they might but I could not favor this character in any way, in fact, I can't bring up another character to mind that I loathe more than this one. He's ruined life, love, and linguistics in order to satisfy his selfless ways. It's this powerful emotion evoked in me that morphs Ma mère from simpleton French film to a thematic motion picture worthy of a viewing.
Postmodern French femininity.
The only scene celebratory of his character is in which he is on the beach in company of the incredibly lovely Emma de Caunes. He looks slightly behind him and notices a crying child. In effort to comfort him, he questions the child's native language, first asking if Spanish then Italian. The mother grabs the child and walks the crying child out of camera view. In this bright scene, a light is shown in a dark corridor and a sense of humanity has been revealed. Before you can get too comfortable with a character that is enjoyable, it's all ripped out of underneath when Pierre forces Hansi (de Caunes) to enact a sadistic game of torture upon the adorable and eccentric Loulou.
Right: Emme de Caunes
Hélène has picked her son up from his cozy environment and has been placed in an abode of sex, degradation, prostitution, and with incestuous scene set-ups spotlighting Hélène as the partisan of the group that enforces a fast lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Ma mère also happens to be one of a very small number to be rated NC-17. This rating is mainly for the "aberrant" sexuality displayed mercilessly in Ma mère. Pierre divulges in an early public demonstration of the meaning of getting his "salad tossed" while his mother stares coldly in his direction. Pierre early on in the film was a victim of a social-sexual phobia resulting in his lack of cleanliness and ability to act mature in crowded situations. Not even past the credits will Pierre become a man like his father was.
Ma mère is indeed a daring exercise, both in displaying vulgar perversions and lurid nudity but also in adapting a Bataille novel to the screen. The chemistry between Louis Garrel and Isabelle Huppert is electrifying and forbidden. As their lips become mere inches apart from each others, you either deny an attraction behind incest or welcome the cinematic sexual advances of such a provocative film. Either or, you will notice the emotions and you might even urge towards the screen for the star-crossed lovers to finally accept the common embrace.
In the final scene, you will become exasperated with feelings of regret or glad that you witnessed this perplexing experience. When questioned about Ma mère being incestuous in regards as to "why I watch the films I do", I answer the simple truth. Ma mère is concerning the dissolution of organized religion and the advances of sin and perversion, all the while containing light scenes of incest. One thing's for certain, in the final frame, you will either laugh out loud or remain boldly silent as you witness a man who has lost it all on the verge of a frantic sexual breakdown. Ma mère's verdict is judged better than half of Breillat's shitty works about femininity and the discovery of adolescence.