'Ma Mere': Mommy Weirdest

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 8, 2005

Pierre loves his mother. No, I mean he really loves her.

Based on a novel by Georges Bataille, French writer-director Christophe Honore's creepy art-porn flick tells the story of a young man's (Louis Garrel of "The Dreamers") coming-of-age under the watchful eye and sexual tutelage of his newly widowed mother, Helene (a not-nearly-embarrassed-enough Isabelle Huppert). Helene, a hard-partying hooker who until now has consigned Pierre to the care of his grandparents, is happy to have sonny boy visit her in her Canary Islands home, first setting him up with her working-girl gal pal, Rea (Joana Preiss), and then with the somewhat sweeter, but no less professional, Hansi (Emma de Caunes), each of whom takes Pierre, and you the viewer, on new and startling adventures in carnality.

I thought the cab ride scene was weird, with one of Rea's hands up Helene's skirt and the other performing a proctologic exam on Pierre, but that was before Hansi and Pierre tie up -- and very nearly kill -- Hansi's childhood friend Loulou (Jean-Baptiste Montagut) in a bit of harmless S&M fun. Still, nothing compares to the climactic encounter between Pierre and Helene, which involves such a disturbing blend of unhealthy mother-son affection and physical pain that it gives new meaning to the term child -- not to mention audience -- abuse.

"If you really love me," says Helene to Pierre, "then admit that I am disgusting." Heck, by those standards, Ma, I love you.

MA MERE (NC-17, 110 minutes) -- Contains strong sexual content, nudity and obscenity. In French with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company