The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq Screen 18 articles

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

2014

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq Poster
  • Kidnapping is a fans- and detractors-only affair. At its worst, it feels like a highbrow transgressive-celebrity-cameo skit. (The telling difference between this and, say, Wayne Brady’s appearance on Chappelle’s Show is that Dave Chappelle goes out of his way to establish Brady’s clean-cut public persona as a character before the Training Day antics start.) In its better moments, Kidnapping moves as a mild and pokey social-cringe farce, a Curb Your Enthusiasm with duller teeth.

  • It takes a while for the humor, and for that matter, genuine interest to kick in. We have to spend some time Houellebecq... and get to know him before we can appreciate the absurdity of the countryside environment his kidnappers haul him off to; from there on in, the film becomes sort of a low-key Ruthless People, a case not so much of Stockholm Syndrome in reverse, but of the kidnappers and the kidnapped exerting influence on each other in perpetually surprising and drily funny ways.

  • French thriller director Guillaume Nicloux (“The Stone Council”) shows an uncharacteristically lighter side in “The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq,” a slight, slyly amusing farce that could be described as a French intellectual’s equivalent of Michael Winterbottom’s “Trip” movies, by way of Michael Bay’s “Pain & Gain.”

  • [Houellebecq] oscillates between Andy Warhol blankness, a dandyish sullenness that Louis Garrel might envy, and the peppery universal contempt of Mark E. Smith. But what he resembles most of all—in his ironic self-portrayal—is 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.

  • [Houellebecq] proves a querulous match for his accommodating captors, whinging for his lighter, top-ups of wine and a prostitute, while his musings – ranging from the totalitarian nature of Le Corbusier’s concentration-camp-style designs to his damning views on Europe’s degenerative vocation – provide lively provocation.

  • An appropriately crooked portrait of the uncompromising and secretive writer, L’Enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq often holds forth on literature and French politics, occasionally philosophising without neglecting its spontaneous, whimsical rhythm.

  • Writer-director Guillaume Nicloux gives the film's opening minutes a seamless documentary aesthetic, aided immensely by Houellebecq's self-assured performance in the title role and some perfectly placed throwaway scenes.

  • A divertingly eccentric, often comically absurd movie about a novelist who finds something like happiness after being abducted.

  • [Viewers] might be put off by the movie’s discursive, loose, dry style. I dug it myself, and Nicloux is a very confident practitioner of the mode. Let’s just say that this is pretty much the opposite of a contemporary American comedy: rather than broad, “The Kidnapping of Michel Houllebecq” is an exemplary example of narrow.

  • Here, with his invisible upper lip, his stoop, his glass of wine, his cigarette perpetually gripped (or begged for) between third and ring finger—and with the whole movie predicated upon his persona, the tireless mourner of the twilit West—Houellebecq is a white dwarf, the posthumous remainder of a star. Everyone falls for him, even the migrant worker who lives out back, in a shipping container. The film is a success—it’s funny—but only because the whole thing is a little sad.

  • The film is hard on the eyes, having been shot in a low-budget style with the ubiquitous digital palette of gray-beige-taupe. Fortunately, it’s also hilarious, full of humor that is understated, wry and dependent on familiarity with interests as wide as Houellebecq’s own.

  • Amusingly played - Stockholm Syndrome in reverse - and the sour-faced, querulous author is a great character, despite being a possible racist, misanthrope and degenerate; though actually because of.

  • Notorious French anti-celebrity and author of feel-bad erotica, Michel Houellebecq, delivers what might be one of the greatest leading performances of 2014 in The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, playing an close iteration of himself at the centre a metatextual and existential kidnap scenario. Guillaume Nicloux's hilarious film is reminiscent of such lightly comic early-'90s crime capers as Palookaville...

  • This isn’t exactly _acting_—and as his captors warm to him, you get the sense that their cracked smiles are involuntary—but then again it can’t be said that Houellebecq is a nonprofessional. After all, he’s a professional novelist, at once all there and kind of not, making for a fascinating screen presence.

  • This quietly uproarious drama delivers substantial artistic whimsy with a poker face... Houellebecq—under the direction of Guillaume Nicloux—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.

  • Guillaume Nicloux’s film plays cannily against expectations. What could easily have just been a vehicle for Houellebecq’s dependably scandalizing pronouncements turns out to be something more interesting: a portrait of the highly complicated personality in which those pronouncements gestate.

  • Nicloux has great fun with the conceit, imagining that Houellebecq was snatched not by terrorists but by three incompetent criminals... The tête-à-têtes — 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.

  • A familiarity with Houellebecq’s writing is helpful to appreciating every nuance of Nicloux’s film, though isn’t absolutely necessary. The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is on one hand a rather ingenious take on the artist documentary... on the other, a tabletop comedy of manners, closer to something by Gianni Di Gregorio or Hong Sang-soo than to Houellebecq’s own work, fixated as it is in epochal shifts in human development.

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