Courtesy photosabelle Huppert

Courtesy photosabelle Huppert

Strong themes in French film ‘Abuse of Weakness’

Placing yet another strong-willed female protagonist in dicey, sadomasochistic straits, French writer-director Catherine Breillat (“Romance,” “Bluebeard”) tells a story inspired by her real-life experience as a stroke survivor drawn in by a con man in this drama featuring a superb Isabelle Huppert.

A cerebral hemorrhage leads things off.

“Half of my body is dead,” says Maud (Huppert), a confident, successful filmmaker, calling for help.

Horrified at having lost control of her physical self, Maud vows to become an “atomic bomb” if she recovers. Following intense physical therapy, she sees Vilko (Kool Shen), a celebrity con artist, on TV. Liking his “icy, hangdog look,” she casts him in her next movie and makes him her dubious muse of sorts.

Before long, Maud and Vilko become hooked on each other in ways involving power and need. Maud increasingly relies on Vilko for companionship and assistance with her physical disability. Vilko, citing money problems that are affecting his life with his young wife (Laurence Ursino), asks Maud for a substantial loan. Soon, Maud is repeatedly writing checks for Vilko, financially ruining herself.

Breillat isn't the deepest of filmmakers, but she presents disturbing emotions and behavior engrossingly. And whether Maud is adjusting to her clawlike hand, or buying a pair of custom-made black boots (“the handicapped need an S&M look”), or tearfully unable to explain to her family how she allowed Vilko to bankrupt her, Huppert portrays her physical state convincingly and her emotional predicament rivetingly.

Shen, a former rapper, can't compete with Huppert dramatically, but he supplies the raw magnetism Breillat wants in this story whose sexual current is in the undertones.

It all adds up to a modest but satisfying psychodrama about control, pride, vulnerability and self-deception.

REVIEW Abuse of Weakness Three stars Starring Isabelle Huppert and Kool Shen Written and directed by Catherine Breillat Not rated Running time 1 hour, 44 minutes

artsCatherine BreillatIsabelle HuppertKool ShenMovies

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

A nurse draws up a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Mission neighborhood COVID-19 vaccine site on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF expands vaccine eligiblity, but appointments ‘limited’

San Francisco expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday but appointments remain limited… Continue reading

The now-shuttered Cliff House restaurant overlooks Ocean Beach people at Ocean Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
History buffs working to keep Cliff House collection in public view

Funds needed to buy up historic building’s contents at auction

Andra Day sounds great in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”<ins></ins>
Singing soars in uneven ‘United States vs. Billie Holiday’

‘Test Pattern’ takes on timely issues, from racism to women’s health

Most Read