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Ma mère
Directed by Christophe Honoré
Produced by Paulo Branco
Bernard Henri Levy
Written by Christophe Honoré
Starring Isabelle Hupert
Louis Garrel
Joana Preiss
Emma de Caunes
Philipe Duclos
Jean-Baptiste Montagut
Release date(s) 13 May, 2004
Running time 110 minutes
Country France
Language French

Ma mère (French for "my mother") is a French-Austrian-Portuguese-Spanish 2004 movie about the fictional story of an incestuous relationship between a 17-year-old boy and his attractive, promiscuous, 43-year-old mother. The movie stars Isabelle Hupert, Louis Garrel, Emma de Caunes, Joana Preiss, Philipe Duclos and Jean-Baptiste Montagut. French director Christophe Honoré, who wrote the screenplay, based it on the controversial and posthumous novel of the same name by French author George Bataille. Honoré shot the film on location in the Canary Islands, Spain. Its dialogue is almost entirely in French with brief segments in Spanish, German and English. Film distribution company TLA Releasing released Ma mère in France, at the Cannes Film Market, on 13 May 2004.

Internet movie site Rotten Tomatoes indicates Ma mère has received mixed but largely negative reviews over time, with an average of 3.7 points out of 10. Of the 40 reviews posted on Rotten Tomatoes, only five are positive. Jonathan Romney associates the film with the New French Extremity.

Contents

Synopsis

Preliminary Scenes

The story revolves around pious, young Pierre (Louis Garrel) who has just left a Catholic boarding school to live with his wealthy parents at their villa on the island of Gran Canaria. Pierre's father (Philipe Duclos) dies early in the movie, leaving his mother, Hélène (Isabelle Huppert) to care for him. Pierre soon learns, however, of the depraved nature of his parents.

While in a restaurant, his mother reveals to him that she has been unfaithful to her husband many times with his knowledge and feels no shame about it. She then insists that her son accept her promiscuous ways.

Soon after this, Pierre finds a closet full of his father's pornography. His reaction is to furiously masturbate and then to urinate on the magazine pages. However, there are several far more shocking surprises in store for Pierre.

Hélène encourages her uninhibited sex buddy, Réa (Joana Preiss), to take her son's virginity. She does so but in public and on a concrete floor at Gran Canaria's Yumbo Centrum, a popular shopping and nightlife complex. Hélène looks on longingly as the partially clothed couple copulates with passersby raising no objections.

Afterward, Hélène includes her son in an orgy with her friends, including Hansi (Emma de Caunes), a sweet-faced young woman who later becomes Pierre's girlfriend. After the orgy, Hélène decides that she must leave her son to travel. While saying goodbye to Pierre, she implies that something taboo has happened between them and that she must leave to prevent it from happening again.

Upon Hélène's departure, Hansi enters Pierre's life as a friend. She admits befriending Pierre at Hélène's encouragement but denies receiving a fee from her. Their friendship blossoms into a tender romance and they both fall in love. During their relationship, Hansi reveals that she has participated in sado-masochistic sex many times as a dominatrix with her friend Loulou (Jean-Baptiste Montagut) as the willing masochist. She adds Hélène arranged these encounters as sexual exhibitions for tourists.

After an extended absence from the movie, Hélène returns home with Réa in tow because Hélène has finally tired of her sexual adventures. Upon arriving, she finds her son and Hansi socializing at a bar near the villa. Hélène and Pierre greet each other by chatting and gazing into each other's eyes like lovers while Hansi looks on jealously. Finally, Hélène invites her son to sleep with her. He agrees.

Climax

The "sex" scene between mother and son is an unconventional cinematic montage of facial expressions, bare skin, groans, stroking, self injuring and vocalized thoughts but very little sex. The characters are illuminated first only by dim lighting and then later by flash light beams.

It begins with Hélène lying on the tile floor of their villa with a shirtless Pierre kneeling beside her. She has opened her dress but is still wearing panties and a bra. The pitch black of night surrounds them.

"Wrong is not what we’re about to do. Wrong is wanting to survive it," Hélène thinks in a moment of foreshadowing.

"You’re my mother and my love," Pierre insists as he gazes lovingly at her.

Inexplicably, Hélène’s first act is to slowly cut the lower, right side of her abdomen with a small knife. Hélène then guides her son’s left hand to the wound. He gently massages it, smearing blood on her abdomen.

Hélène then takes her son’s right hand and gently bites it while groaning lightly. The scene then suddenly changes. Although it’s not obvious at first, mother and son are now sitting up on the floor. Pierre is leaning against his mother with his back to her face. Their state of undress has not changed. Hélène reaches around her son’s waist and undoes his pants and zipper. Pierre then begins to masturbate.

While Pierre masturbates, Hélène raises the knife to her throat which flashes just for a moment on camera and then vanishes in the dark. We hear a faint slicing sound and Hélène seems to gasp in pain as her head slumps forward. Pierre, apparently unaware, continues masturbating. The scene abruptly ends here.

It’s not clear whether the couple ever had oral, vaginal or anal sex in this scene. Despite this, it later becomes obvious that Hélène has committed suicide in apparent guilt over her relationship with her son.

Final Scenes

Paramedics remove Hélène's body from the villa and place it in an ambulance. Réa enters the ambulance but Pierre does not. He runs futilely after it as it drives away. Next we see a mortuary employee cleaning Hélène's body to make it presentable for viewing.

In the final scene, Pierre enters a room of the mortuary containing his mother's body in a glass case. He cries as he looks at her then slumps to the floor, his back against the wall, and begins masturbating. Observing this, an employee enters and tries to lift Pierre off the floor. Pierre then rushes toward his mother and screams "Mom, I don't want to die!" The background music for this scene is "Happy Together" by The Turtles. The credits roll.

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