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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.
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
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."
- Catherine Breillat
- Catherine Breillat was born in
Bressuire, France. After pursuing acting
as well as writing several novels
and screenplays, she made her feature
film directorial debut with Une
vraie jeune fille (76). The Festival has
screened many of her films including
36 filette (86), Sale comme un ange
(91), Romance (99), À ma soeur!
(01), Anatomie de l'enfer (04), and
The Sleeping Beauty (10). Abuse of
Weakness (13) is her latest film.