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PREVIOUSLY PLAYED

THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ

12:302:404:507:109:20

Through Tuesday, April 7

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY GUILLAUME NICLOUX

Michel Houellebecq, possibly the most widely-read living French writer, was believed kidnapped on September 16, 2011. But was he really? After a flurry of media reports of his abduction, the story goes cold and Houellebecq, famously reclusive, refuses to set the record straight. Now he goes one step further by starring as himself in “an inspired comic thriller” that purports to tell the tale. The film captures “some of his signature tone of sour, absurd, deadpan humor… Soon he is charming his kidnappers, who respect his intellectual reputation even when he barrages them with diva-ish demands for fine wines and the services of a local prostitute…Houellebecq plays himself convincingly – indeed he appears genuinely drunk in some scenes.” With a nod to O. Henry’s short story, The Ransom of Red Chief, the film explores the  dramatic territory where the personae of criminal and victim are remade in unexpected and surprisingly amusing ways. (All quotations are from Stephen Dalton’s review in The Hollywood Reporter.)

Official Site

FRANCE • 2014 • 92 MINS. • IN FRENCH WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES • KINO LORBER

Reviews

“This quietly uproarious drama delivers substantial artistic whimsy with a poker face… Houellebecq delivers a self-portrait in marginalia as well as a purposeful goof on the vigorous, menacing mucky stuff of life outside the pristine precincts of art.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker 

“…a divertingly eccentric, often comically absurd movie about a novelist, also named Michel Houellebecq, who finds something like happiness after being abducted… This is Michel Houellebecq’s world, after all, preposterous, assaultive and tender.”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“Top Ten List for 2014. My favorite writer is now a movie star, and he’s great playing himself in a literary whodunit that revisits his supposedly factual but still vague and unexplained book-tour kidnaping. Did it really happen, or was Houellebecq just drunk? Who knows? Who cares? I do, a lot.”
– John Waters, Artforum

“A kind of Left Bank literary Larry David. Imagine Curb Your Enthusiasm, with Gauloises smoked right down to the nub, and that’s the sort of pleasure provided here… (with) almost contemptuously relaxed wit. The cast of this seemingly part-improvised comedy… rise to the conceit with relaxed verve.  The star of the show so perfectly lives up to his myth as a sour, disdainful, prematurely wizened shamble.”
– Johnathan Romney, Film Comment

“Droll. These tête-à-têtes (between Houellebecq and his kidnappers) – lively, illuminating, and never condescending exchanges between class-discordant individuals – suggest a reverse case of Stockholm syndrome, in which Luc and his crew grow even fonder of their esteemed hostage… What makes Houellebecq’s performance so fascinating is the mysterious glee he takes in sending up his own persona.”
– Melissa Anderson, Village Voice 

“Wryly funny and surprisingly heartwarming. A light satire on a famous public figure. The bottom line is, the film is very, very funny”
– Dustin Chang, Twitchfilm.com