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Nucingen House

Posted by martinteller on October 14, 2012

Crime novelist William Henry James (Jean-Marc Barr) reflects back to 1925.  He was struggling, but while gambling, he wins the Nucingen estate in Chile.  He moves there with his ailing wife Anne-Marie (Elsa Zylberstein) and agrees to let the assorted residents there stay on.  They are the aristocratic Bastien (Laurent Malet), his flighty and seductive niece Lotte (Laure de Clermont), the servant Ully (Miriam Heard), and an odd gentleman named Dieter (Thomas Durand).  And then there’s the ghosts, most prominently Lotte’s sister Léonore (Audrey Marney).

This isn’t a film as deliberately bewildering as City of Pirates, but the narrative is still pretty thin.  Ruiz is having some fun with the haunted house genre, injecting some humor and keeping it casual.  But the problem is that it’s too casual.  The movie makes sense in its own peculiar way, but it meanders too much, taking on a lazy tempo that lulls the viewer too much between its supernatural fancies.  The weird moments are compelling, but the mood is too pleasant to make them felt.  You can only bend a genre so much before it breaks, and removing the scares from a ghost story just makes it some vaguely odd things happening in a big, extravagant mansion.

As usual, Ruiz is delightful with composition and framing… at this point it almost goes without saying that the film looks scrumptious.  And the performances are all adequate at the very least (de Clermont stands out the most).  But there’s just not enough zing here, and it doesn’t explore any significantly intriguing avenues.  Rating: Fair (61)


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