Adapted from the provocative novel by transgressive postmodern intellectual and author Georges Bataille, MA MERE is set in the visually lush and spiritually empty tourist trap of the Canary Islands. Louis Garrel, projecting the same European sultriness that was perfectly suited to Bertolucci's more warmly erotic film THE DREAMERS, plays Pierre, a sulking and antisocial teenager, willfully indifferent to being on summer vacation with his parents. When his wayward father suddenly dies, his mother Helene (Isabelle Huppert), forces him into her universe of illicit sex--a simultaneously ugly and playful realm inhabited by Gallic sophisticates engaging in orgies and bondage. Pierre, a devout Catholic, is resistant at first--to the point of Catholic guilt-induced attacks of sobbing and hyperventilation. But after fulfilling experiences with Helene's male and female playmates, Pierre obsessively pursues the sexual attention of his own mother, and a disturbing quest toward consummation of the attraction between mere and fils is undertaken.
Star Isabelle Huppert's role as Helene is a perfect follow-up to her award-winning turn in the equally shocking LA PIANISTE, which featured the French fatale engaging in illicit acts with both a young male student and her own controlling, elderly mother. With her just barely constrained and visibly volatile sexual energy, the actress has become known as the "go-to girl" for roles that transcend sexual and social taboos and explore the dark and violent side of erotic desire. Her overpowering presence in MA MERE, as all great performances do, make the viewer wonder just how blurry the boundaries between actress and role have become.