Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ [TFF 2014]

Michel Houellebecq The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (2014) Film Review from the 13th Annual Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), a movie directed by Guillaume Nicloux and starring Michel Houellebecq, Mathieu Nicourt, Maxime Lefrancois, Francoise Lebrun, and Luc Schwarz.

The most interesting thing about The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is in its lead character: the real-life French author Michel Houellebecq portrays himself in the film, which is shot to resemble what one might find in a documentary. Houellebecq is a film that takes great pains to blur the line between fact and fiction, and the result is a loose illustration of Houllebecq’s neuroses without a great deal of substance.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is often very entertaining. It reminded me at times of a more low-key episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, trading in Larry David’s angry shouting for Houellebecq’s dry sarcasm. When it wants to be, the film can be incredibly funny, but it also has more on its mind than just laughter.

The film follows Houellebecq after he is kidnapped while on a book tour (apparently mimicking a similar event, when he disappeared in real life three years ago). Most of the film sees Houellebecq as a hostage, but he is far from distraught about the situation. He actually seems pretty content, and he and his kidnappers get along splendidly. The strange relationship he builds with his kidnappers is the most compelling aspect of the film, leaving the audience to wonder whether this is all a joke to him or if he understands the gravity of what has happened to him.

There’s a lot of discussion about art in The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq. The nature of it, how different people perceive it, what it means for society, etc. I found it interesting, but it was nothing that hasn’t been covered in better, more insightful films, either. There’s a novelty to watching an author like Houellebecq wax poetic about his favorite novels, and there’s a dialogue exchange about THE LORD OF THE RINGS that just absolutely kills.

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq displays a fair amount of wit and a good deal of critical discourse. It’s a pleasant, enjoyable time that evaporates from the mind shortly after it ends. It’s the film equivalent to watching the sunset after a long day of work: oddly comforting in its way, and able to stand on its own as a nice experience for anyone willing to give it the time of day.

Rating: 6/10

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About the author

Michael Smith

Mike Smith is an avid filmgoer from New York who loves to hear his own voice - luckily his work as a podcaster on FilmBook allows him to do just that. Mike graduated from The College of Saint Rose in Albany with a degree in communications, and is ready to dole out critical analysis of all your pop culture fixations. Mike is the host of FilmBookCast and can frequently be seen at his local movie theater, patiently explaining to his friends that Superman Returns is a misunderstood masterpiece.

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