Ma mere (2004)

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Released 17-May-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Dir. Christphe Honore & Emma De Caunes(Hansi)
Alternate Ending
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Advertising, The Piano Teacher,Romance, The Eel,Vixen!
Trailer-Anatomy Of Hell
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 107:31 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (84:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Christophe Honoré
Madman Entertainment
Starring Isabelle Huppert
Louis Garrel
Emma de Caunes
Joana Preiss
Jean-Baptiste Montagut
Dominique Reymond
Olivier Rabourdin
Philippe Duclos
Pascal Tokatlian
Théo Hakola
Nuno Lopes
Patrick Fanik
Susi Egetenmeier
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    I picked Ma Mere off the review list because I heard Isabelle Huppert was involved. After her blistering performance in The Piano Teacher, I was curious about the rest of her work, and I have a penchant for challenging French cinema that's out of the mainstream. It's taken me a week until I felt I could properly write a review of this movie, and my head is still digesting a lot of it. If that gives you any indication of the nature of this film, you will probably know by now whether you will like it or not.

    Based on the controversial novel by Georges Bataille, Ma Mere was adapted for the screen and directed by a similarly controversial French director - Christophe Honoré. I have not read the novel, but judging by the cast interviews on this disc with people who have read the novel, Honoré has tried to stay as faithful as possible to a novel that is quite surreal at times.

    The plot follows a young man, Pierre (Louis Garrel), who moves to the Spanish islands with his parents. After his father, who Pierre was never close to, dies in an accident, Pierre discovers that his parents are both sexual deviants. His mother (Isabelle Huppert), finally removed from the constraints of her marriage, decides to embark upon an open frenzy of debauchery, and is determined to take her son along with her as a final act of sadistic cruelty to both herself and him. Soon Pierre is indoctrinated in the island's decadent underworld, but with the sudden absence of his mother, and the loss of all stabilising factors in his life, he must determine for himself whether he will follow in his parents' footsteps or take the chance of something greater with his mother's former associate Hansi (Emma de Caunes).

    Ma Mere is a very interesting film, with a multi-textured plot, and a densely layered thematic undercurrent. Some of those themes it manages to portray and explore admirably, others less successfully. There is a constant underpinning of religion and theology, and the ethics inherent to the teachings of God, that I imagine was a core part of Pierre's personality in Bataille’s novel. Unfortunately, this does not translate effectively to the screen, and Honoré seems to have realised this, trimming out several sequences that relate directly to that theme and changing the ending as a result.

    Where it gets closer is in its exploration of love, and what that means on various levels - family, friends, sexual, homosexual. For each expression the film has for love of a wrong (at least by the standard of social norms) kind, it has a counterbalancing expression of the right kind. Pierre's choices in light of these options defines his, and in turn his mother's, personalities and give us a greater understanding of who they are under all the surface niceties (though in Pierre's mother's case, there aren't many of those anyway).

    I also thought that the performances were superb, particularly from Emma de Caunes, who brings a humanity to Hansi that is vital to the characters of those around her, in particular Pierre. Huppert again puts in a moody performance that, while good, is not as good as her performance in The Piano Teacher - though I'm sure it's hard as an actor to play a character with no redeeming characteristics.

    Many may dismiss this film as pornography, and they are entitled to their opinion - this film has many pornographic elements. However, the purpose of pornography is generally to arouse, and while there is much in this film capable of disturbing or even disgusting an audience, there is little to arouse. There is nearly always an undercurrent of violence or sadism to the sex, generally on an intellectual rather than physical level, and the sex is generally done as a means of degrading and humiliating another person rather than any meaningful expression of intimacy.

    For those who like their cinema out of the bounds of normal, I recommend this. Challenging, if at times a little too slow, there's a lot here to think about or discuss with friends over coffee afterwards.

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Transfer Quality


    I watched this via front projection with my Sony HPL-HS60 scaled at 1080i and sampled several scenes on my 42" Sony E-Series Rearpro HDTV scaled at 720p, both using HDMI.

    Video is presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is slightly off from the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66:1. Note that the cover specifies that the film is in 2.35:1. This is incorrect.

    Sadly, the video presentation of this film is quite badly flawed. Exhibiting some rather bad dot crawl and compression artefacts, the screen seems to pulse from scene to scene, and a lot of cuts are extremely messy with parts of the former frame still interposing in the new. This is often indicative of an incorrectly flagged and marked MPEG encoding, which results in a data stream that your MPEG decoder cannot properly read. I tried this on three different players and got the same results, so it is definitely an encoding issue.

    Colour also seems dull, particularly when contrasted against the colour in the theatrical trailer, and the colour of the cast and crew interviews. Again, it seems that the data stream has been corrupted during the encoding process resulting in a confused set of instructions to the decoder.

    There are quite a few film artefacts, though mostly these are unobtrusive and not a fault of the encoding process, but rather marks on the print. You just get used to the immaculately clean prints of Hollywood these days, I think. This does not seem to have been mastered from the finest print.

    In a nutshell, the picture is watchable, but barely.

    The dual layer pause comes at 84:26, and is in the middle of a still scene and barely noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    On another sad note, the audio also leaves a lot to be desired.

    Presented in the original French 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, there is a very bad sync issue that pervades the whole film – undoubtedly another fault of the encoding process, which generally delays the audio while the interlaced images are properly de-interlaced. I tried to adjust the audio delay to compensate for this using my DVD player and AV Receiver, but with only 10ms to play with, this wasn't enough. The result is that you hear someone slapping another's face before the hand has even risen to strike. This is particularly bad in one scene involving a whip where the whip has cracked but hasn't even been drawn back for the strike. The audio must be close to half a second / 12 frames of film / 30 frames of PAL video out of sync, which is pretty bad all things considered. It's not a source fault, either, as it is not apparent in the theatrical trailer or the deleted scenes. This fault is noticeable on each of my DVD players, though slightly less noticeable on the DVD player in my PC where I believe a 10ms correction would probably fix the problem.

    For the remainder, this is a fairly limited audio track, which is expected for this type of dialogue driven movie. Dialogue is relatively clear, despite the sync issue, though I noticed quite a few pops and crackles. I understand this was done on a very tight budget, and that probably explains the audio quality, but not the transfer quality.

    No subwoofer use at all here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The main menu has the end credits track “Happy Together” in 2.0 Dolby Stereo. The other menus are static and silent.


    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with 2.0 French Dolby Stereo soundtracks, there are two interviews:

Alternative Ending (5:38)

    Presented in 1.66:1, inset in a 1.33:1 Full Frame, 2.0 French Dolby Stereo with burnt in English subtitles. I prefer the theatrical release.

Deleted Scenes (2:20)

    Presented in 1.66:1, inset in a 1.33:1 Full Frame, 2.0 French Dolby Stereo with burnt in English subtitles.

Original Theatrical Trailer (1:41)

    Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, 2.0 French Dolby Stereo with burnt in English subtitles, this trailer exhibits none of the faults the film transfer does.

Madman Propoganda

    Five trailers:

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R1 release appears to be identical except for the Madman Propaganda trailers. I can't find much about whether the picture quality is the same or not.


    This is an interesting film that will appeal to those who like to think about their cinema. Sadly, the transfer is badly flawed, and incorrectly encoded for decoding by any of my (fairly common) MPEG decoding chips.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Friday, March 02, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS92, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 WXGA 3LCD Cineza Projector (10,000:1 contrast ratio) with 100" Longhom Pro-Series Micro-Textured White Matte PVC 1.78:1 16:9 Fixed Mount Screen with Black Velour Trim. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersJensen QX70 Centre Front, Jensen QX45 Left Front & Right Front, Jensen QX20 Left Rear & Right Rear, Jensen QX-90 Dual 10" 250 Watt Subwoofer

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