This elegant suspense piece from François Ozon (Sous le sable/Under the Sand; 8 femmes/8 Women) stars Charlotte Rampling as a successful, ill-tempered British mystery novelist whose publisher lends her his house in Provence so she can work on her next book. She’s dismayed to find that she must share the place with the publisher’s nubile daughter (Ludivine Sagnier), who is given to bringing home older men and having loud sex with them. Then she becomes interested in the girl as possible source material for her novel, and mayhem erupts.
Ozon is, as always, a remote, mechanical director with a dry and cold style, a neat stack of chips on each shoulder, and every intention of keeping several sinuous steps ahead of his characters and his audience. Here, his chilliness is perfectly suited to the ambiguous relationship between the two main characters. The flat, airy, sinister quality he generates (as in Sous le sable, which is probably still his best film to date) remains interesting and pleasurable, if not deeply compelling. Rampling’s performance gets better as her character loosens up, and the plot reversals in the last section will fuel many a post-film conversation. In English and French with English subtitles. (102 minutes)