Abuse of Weakness
Film Review by Kam Williams
Filmmaker Falls Prey to Con Man in Semi-Autobiographical Cautionary Tale
Catherine Breillat is a feminist filmmaker famous for shooting sexually-explicit films bordering on porn, although arguably from a woman’s perspective. Romance (1999), Fat Girl (2001) and Anatomy of Hell (2004) are among her highly-controversial offerings . Abuse of Weakness marks a bit of departure for
the controversial iconoclast, as it is a semi-autobiographical drama revisiting an unfortunate chapter in her own personal life.
In 2004, she suffered a stroke that left her partially paralyzed on the left side and in that very vulnerable position soon fell prey to a notorious charlatan. While pretending to be her knight in shining armor, the creep proceeded to pressure Catherine to write him checks totaling over a million dollars.
The experienced thief was such a smooth operator that he managed to drain all the cash out of her bank account before what was transpiring came to the attention of any of her children. The philanderer simultaneously toyed with Catherine’s affections for over a year, seducing her despite his having an expecting wife and then a newborn at home.
All of the above is recounted in heartbreaking detail in Abuse of Weakness, a fictionalized screen version of director Breillat’s book of the same name. The poignant, character-driven drama co-stars Isabelle Huppert as Maud (aka Catherine) and Kool Shen as her duplicitous Casanova, Vilko.
The picture paints a plausible picture of how a patient attempting to recover from a life-threatening illness might be easily exploited by a conniving con artist without a functioning conscience. In this case, the arrogant Vilko never exhibits the slightest contrition, even when a humiliated Maud confronts him after finally facing up to the truth. He’s more worried about his wife (Laurence Ursino) finding out about their affair than about leaving his victim in such dire financial and medical straits.
A cautionary tale depicting a shocking example of man’s inhumanity to (wo)man.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
In French with subtitles
Running time: 104 minutes
Distributor: Strand Releasing