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  Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, The Writer's Blocked
Year: 2014
Director: Guillaume Nicloux
Stars: Michel Houellebecq, Mathieu Nicourt, Maxime Lefrançois, Françoise Lebrun, Luc Schwarz, Veran Mauberret, Ginette Suchotkzy, André Suchotzky, Marie Bourjala, Karim Achoui, François Samuelson, Vincent Janerot, Béatrice Mendy, Marie Schwarz, Ian Turiak
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Michel Houellebecq (playing himself) is a writer of prose, poetry and criticism who is often controversial, but that controversy has offered him some notoriety and indeed fame and acclaim in his chosen field. But with that comes an interest in what he is like as a human being, including wondering about his private life, which came to a head in 2011 when he disappeared. He didn't stay disappeared, he returned to the world apparently none the worse for wear, but frustratingly for those intrigued by him, he has never said where he had gone for those few days, fuelling speculation that he had been kidnapped by sinister forces. Now the time has come to reveal all: what did happen to Michel?

Well, it might have been this, but then again it might have been something entirely different, although you can completely envisage the experience being just as mundane. Kidnapping? Mundane? That’s correct, for director Guillaume Nicloux ensured that in spite of his main character, who was Houellebecq as his own bad self, being abducted, there was absolutely nothing exciting about the events whatsoever. That was where the humour arose from, as this was ostensibly a comedy, though quite who the target audience was remained something of a mystery in itself, as the hardcore fans of the author's provocative jottings might find a distinct lack of anything near the knuckle.

Which was as much a joke as anything else here, as the deadpan comedy could barely be termed observational humour since Nicloux had simply sketched out a set of scenes for his performers to improvise their way through, then wound them up and let them go, hence a set of sequences of men indulging in that particular style of cinema, the hang out movie. There were a few women too, but in the main we were served up a collection of males, none of them professional actors (though we did get a professional bodybuilder, which is a type of performing one supposes), shooting the breeze as Michel remains largely unperturbed that he has been the victim of a kidnapping, and relishes the chance to natter.

And natter they did, for an hour and a half of nothing very exciting happening, seemingly berating the audience and by extension the interested public who had wanted to know what Houellebecq had been up to during those missing days. What he did do may have been even less eventful than what we were delivered here, which was kind of funny, and some of the exchanges he has with the criminals, who take him from his penthouse suite to a remote French farmhouse where they proceed to do very little with him, did raise a laugh thanks to their wilful banality. The expected conversations about art and literature were present, but whether you would find them enlightening was a very different matter since they were delivered by the kidnappers who didn't know what they were talking about and Michel who did, and besides they were given the same weight as the writer asking for his cigarette lighter back over and over.

Nevertheless this looked reluctant to serve a prime bon mot or three to demonstrate the power of his arrogant supermind, when he could ramble on about nothing in particular. Again, this bizarre reluctance to engage with the audience in anything like the anticipated manner - Houellebecq is at best a caricature of a French intellectual here, utterly self-obsessed and unwilling to bend to anyone else's wishes - was curiously entertaining, assuming you could watch it without your mind wandering in a way that the people on the screen appeared to be doing. If anything, it was a depiction of a man who instead of accommodating others to allow their point of view to enrich his own was a person who twisted others around his little finger simply by dint of the fact he was not about to change for anyone, he was happy with the way he was and you had to make allowances for him as there was no way on Earth he was going to do the same for you. This leads to him learning mixed martial arts, demanding a prostitute and having a party for himself (like a kid's birthday party!). Weirdly, it was both deliberately boring and able to raise a few laughs in the process.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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