The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq
Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
In September 2011 writer Michel Houellebecq briefly disappeared off the face of the earth. Wild rumours began circulating on the Internet that he’d been abducted by Al-Qaeda or aliens from outer space. Some Twitter users even expressed relief that the controversial author was suddenly no longer around. This film now reveals what really happened: Three tough guys variously with impressive hairstyles and bodybuilder physiques carried off the star intellectual, taking him out of the daily stress of dodging autograph hunters and having his flat renovated and bringing him to a beautiful rural underdog idyll, full of dog grooming, bodybuilding demonstrations, junk cars and Polish sausages. But who was to pay the ransom?
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★★★★ review by Richard K on Letterboxd
The "greatest living French author"* and my personal favorite (since way before he was known as such) goes missing for several days in the middle of a book tour and no one knows why. We all suspect he went on a bender, but here he stars in a movie where he gets kidnapped during that time--and while handcuffed he drinks so much his kidnappers even tell him to slow down! In his own way, this guy really knows how to cultivate an author's mystique!
He's got some great lines in this film, too, very much like in his books. "The problem with the piano is you can play it badly, not like with the violin. Piano is too accessible." "[On the inspiration to write novels] The trick is to do absolutely nothing--total inactivity." "Poland is not a real country--it's an idea that is fairly recent in the twentieth century."
Watching where this movie evolves is so great--you can't possibly know what to expect, anything can happen. There's a scene where Michel Houellebecq meets a black woman in a park and hands her a large amount of cash. Then she tells him the kids miss him. He seems vaguely surprised--are they his kids? No explanation is provided--not even in another scene, where he gets so drunk with his own kidnappers over dinner they end up with masks on arguing violently about "Lord of the Rings," then getting emotional about fatherhood. "Are you a father? Do you have kids?" Houellebecq's evasive answer is as good a placeholder as any for the answer to your inevitable questions: "Is this movie real? What does it all mean? Is any of it true?"
If, like me, you've been wondering about the odd way he smokes his cigarette between his ring and middle finger then worry not, the answer is here. Or is it?
*I heard him introduced that way on "Le Petit Journal" last year.
★★★★★ review by Lance on Letterboxd
Funny as hell.
★★★½ review by preston on Letterboxd
Michel Houellebecq, gnome-like and gnomic, opining that Mozart is moronic and Le Corbusier a total disaster. He smokes holding the cigarette between his middle and ring fingers, like a dandy, and dreams of naked women with their legs splayed. His kidnappers start discussing him among themselves ("He's a fragile guy," says one; yes, but "he's learned to live with his fears," notes another), then chat to him about body-building, Tolkien, the structure of alexandrines, the concept of Poland, the best place to eat kidneys. You do nothing, get a little bored and then things just come to you, says the man himself, explaining his creative process - and something similar may be said of this amiable shaggy-dog story, which offers very little beyond the central dynamic (it's even a little boring), spurring the audience to creative speculation. Who's paying the ransom? Is there a Mr. Big? Is it even possible, as someone suggests, that Houellebecq staged the whole thing himself, as a stunt or an adventure? 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.
★★★★ review by Gustaf Ottosson on Letterboxd
Nr 110 on All Films I Saw 2015 (Ranked)
I'm guessing there is no in between from loving or hating the humour utilised to recount for the events that happened in 2011, when famous French author Michel Houellebecq was kidnapped, but I'm certainly one of those who double up with laughter when Michel and one of his abductors are discussing a book he's written about HP Lovecraft and he's constantly referred to as Warcraft.
The contrast between the intellectual world and the testosterone filled world of bodybuilding martial arts works out splendidly and here and there Houellebecq jumps on the opportunity to give us small portions of his philosophy and views on the world.
Well worth a look.
★★★★★ review by J.P. Vitale on Letterboxd
"No I ain't no Houellebecq girl,
I ain't no Houellebecq girl"
- Gwen Stefani (paraphrased)
This movie is brilliant. Yes, it's very talky and takes its time but once it gets there, wow! The film is about the kidnapping of the famous French writer Michel Houellebecq by the nicest, most generous kidnappers ever. They feed him sandwiches and wine, let him watch tv, have conversations with him on every topic you can think of and even hire him the cutest prostitute I've ever seen in a movie before (played by an adorable 21-year old actress named Marie Bourjala. She is so adorable in this!).
This movie is fascinating and certainly not for everybody but if you like a good conversation and a fine wine, this movie just might be for you. It was just what the doctor ordered for me :)
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