Locarno 2017: Serge Bozon’s Mrs. Hyde

“Mrs. Géquil is a delicate woman, at least in the eyes of her patronizing husband (played by José Garcia) as well as, perhaps, in the eyes of her boss and the vast majority of the students in her class,” begins Rory O’Connor at the Film Stage. “However, if the Robert Louis Stevenson reference in the title hasn’t led you to this conclusion already, then perhaps the casting of Isabelle Huppert in the lead role just might: she will not be referred to as delicate for very long. Mrs. Hyde, a socially bellicose, darkly humorous farce with aesthetic and spiritual echoes of both giallo horror and recent Kaurismäki, is the latest work of film critic-turned-actor-turned-director Serge Bozon. He’s a filmmaker who has, in the past, used similarly absurdist tropes — although never through such a playfully pseudo-supernatural façade—to talk about issues of class and gender politics in contemporary France, evidenced in Tip Top (also with Huppert) and La France.

“Half enjoyable, half frustrating,” finds Jessica Kiang in Variety. “As if watching a Bruce Banner who never fully Hulks out, we sadly just don’t get to witness Huppert ripping into the role of the selfish, voracious id-monster that the title promises. Still, she is never less than a pleasure to watch, and for an actress who can radiate enough command to part a minor sea, it’s its own peculiar sort of challenge to see her negotiate the role of the ‘insignificant,’ overwhelmed and ridiculed physics teacher in a vocational school in a rough suburb of Paris.”

Mrs. Hyde has some inspired notions, but it never feels as if it has truly refined them into a coherent film,” writes Allan Hunter for Screen. “The comic elements are labored, with some of the star names encouraged towards mannered performances. A floppy haired, smarmy Romain Duris seems especially guilty of over-egging his character of a vain, conceited ninny of a teacher. Huppert is always watchable, but even she seems more comfortable as the assertive Marie rather than the ineffectual creature that we first encounter.”

“It's essentially pointless to try to ‘understand’ Bozon,” suggests Muriel Del Don at Cineuropa, adding that “what matters here is letting go and savoring the aesthetic sophistication and array of characters: elegant, irreverent and wonderfully absurd.”

“I think that compared to my other films, this one has a more sincere side to it, because I had experience in the field of teaching,” Bozon tells Adrien Kuenzy. Also at the Locarno Festival site, Aurélie Godet: “One of the shrewdest films ever made about education, Madame Hyde is dead serious about its subject, yet never takes itself too seriously.”

Update, 8/9: “Actor and occasional director Bozon wrote the screenplay with his regular collaborator and partner, Axelle Ropert, who is also a director in her own right (her The Apple of My Eye, which Bozon co-wrote, also premiered in competition at Locarno),” writes Boyd van Hoeij in the Hollywood Reporter. “The uniqueness of their universe comes from the constant and, at first sight, startling juxtaposition of dreamy cinema-history influences—screwball comedy and film noir must both be big in the Bozon-Ropert household—and biting and very contemporary social commentary. In the case of Hyde, we can add the basic plot of a Gothic novel as well as those awful inspirational-teacher movies to the mix. The resulting concoction isn’t always smooth but it's certainly very distinctive.”

Update, 8/10: “It’s a fascinating role in an uneven but frequently insightful movie riddled with amusing asides and enigmatic developments, partly because Huppert doesn’t undergo a radical transformation,” finds IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. “Instead, she subtly finds herself at war with her inner confidence, and it’s often hard to tell which side has the upper hand.”

Update, 8/15: “The fact that Isabelle Huppert picked up the award for best actress in Serge Bozon's Mrs. Hyde was hardly surprising,” finds James Lattimer at the House Next Door. “But Huppert's performance conveys a sense of purpose the film itself does not. . . . It's hard to keep up with all the competing elements that Mrs. Hyde throws into the mix, as wry, awkward comedy rubs up against nascent horror, social commentary vies with educational discourse, and the restraints of gender and disability meet the liberating force of scientific method. Our potential for bewilderment is only accentuated by Bozon's seeming disinterest in marshaling any of these sets of elements into a clear trajectory or statement.”

Update, 8/18: “My hope is that, by the end, the audience will feel like crying,” Bozon tells Bénédicte Prot at Cineuropa. “So we go from comedy in the first section, to the supernatural in the second, and after this the mood becomes increasingly sombre . . . despairing even.”

Locarno 2017. For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.

You have no items in your shopping cart