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Abuse of Weakness

Isabelle Huppert stars a a filmmaker who falls for a conman, in Catherine Breillat's fearless study in will and perversity, loosely based on events from her own life.

Drama 2013 104 mins Not rated

Director: Catherine Breillat



We expect Catherine Breillat to be confrontation but Abuse of Weakness finds her at her most compelling, and arguably most personal. Isabelle Huppert plays director and author Maud who, following a stroke that leaves her partly paralysed, chooses an unlikely lead actor for her next project - Vilko Piran (Kool Shen), an inveterate con man turned literary star. While their film collaboration is slow to materialise, the pair's relationship becomes a fraught battle for control as Maud finds herself in thrall to Vilko, writing endless cheques to fund his lifetsyle. 'Abuse of Weakness' is a legal term, but Breillat questions the real meaning of the phrase, leaving the viewer to determine whether Maud truly is weak or whether the exploitation she willingly undergoes is her way of excercising power and control.

What makes the story especially charged is the fact that similar events happened to Breillat herself; indeed, this is her second treatment of the episode, following her autobiographical book of 2009. Helping her cast a pitiless searchlight on her own/Maud's complicity in her ruin is Isabelle Huppert's mesmerising performance, which - while uncannily close to the real Breillat - transcends impersonation to become a fearless study in will and perversity. In this searching and soberly executed drama, rapper turned actor Kool Shen offers unnerving support as Vilko, the user who's also, we increasinly suspect, the used.