An extraordinary collaboration between two legends of French cinema, Catherine Breillat’s brutally candid autobiographical drama stars Isabelle Huppert as a stroke-afflicted filmmaker manipulated by a notorious con man.
Abuse of Weakness
In 2004, the iconoclastic French director Catherine Breillat suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body. Three years later, she met the infamous con man Christophe Rocancourt and offered him a lead role in a film she was developing, as well as 25,000 euros to write a script. Over the subsequent eighteen months, she wrote him various cheques totalling a further 678,000 euros, money that she would never see again. In 2009, Breillat wrote a book entitled Abus de faiblesse — abuse of weakness, a term used in the French legal system — that dealt with her experience. Last year, Rocancourt was found guilty under exactly this law of taking Breillat's money, and was sentenced to sixteen months in prison. Abuse of Weakness, starring Isabelle Huppert, is a dramatization of this troubling and — to some — inexplicable episode in Breillat's life.
The fearless Huppert is extraordinary as the strong, independent filmmaker (here named Maud) who is felled by a stroke, fights through her physical challenges, recovers many of her functions, and then finds herself eager to start on a new artistic venture. After she opens her door to a streetwise, charismatic con artist named Vilko (played by French rapper Kool Shen), the two of them strike up a grudging friendship that eventually takes an unusual twist. Maud finds herself attracted to the arrogant energy of this feral male whilst Vilko is an attentive, constant presence. It is not long before his febrile imagination has Maud writing cheques for a series of "business ventures."
Breillat is brutally honest in confronting
this part of her past. Asked how she could
be drawn into all of this, Maud's answer is
telling: "It was me. . . and not me."