The French writer-director Francois Ozon had a taste of U.S. mainstream success with his 2003 thriller, “Swimming Pool,” in which Charlotte Rampling played a suspense novelist who began to get lost in her own morbid imagination.
The film wasn’t exactly a smash hit, but it received much wider circulation than the average import — including multiplex bookings in the summer — and demonstrated Ozon’s ability to crossover to Hollywood production if he wanted to.
Like another European filmmaker who has resisted the lure of Los Angeles — Pedro Almodovar — Ozon chose to keep working in his own language on small projects. The results have been wonderful — a great 2005 film about coping with imminent death, “Time to Leave,” and another very strong film, “Hideaway,” about two people trying to deal with with the sudden drug overdose death of someone they love.
Ozon’s style has always been hard to pin down. The frank and sometimes darkly comic presentation of gay material has invited comparison with Almodovar and the low-key and highly personal examination of a few days in the life of “ordinary” French people has a lot in common with the understated films of the late great Eric (“Pauline at the Beach”) Rohmer.
“Hideaway” begins with the delivery of drugs to an apartment in a plusher section of Paris, where Louis (Melvil Poupaud of “Time to Live”) and Mousse (the superb Isabelle Carre) have been holed up for days.
The new drugs kill Louis and leave Mousse in a coma. When she wakes up she doesn’t understand why she survived and Mousse doesn’t know what to do with the news that she is carrying Louis’ child.
After the funeral — where Louis’ mother pushes Mousse to have an abortion — the young woman takes off for the country home of a friend where she is soon joined by Louis’ melancholy brother Paul (Louis-Ronan Choisy, below).
Paul is gay and recovering from two shocks — the death of his brother and the revelation that he was adopted.
Most of the running time of “Hideaway” is set in the country house and on a nearby beach where Mousse and Paul become friends and help each other sort of the next stage of their lives.
There are really no big dramatic scenes in the film, but Ozon draws us in very close to his two major characters so that we care about them even as we become intimately aware of their shortcomings.
“Hideaway” is the sort of beautifully observed slice-of-life drama that Ozon could not have made in this country if he had moved to Hollywood in the wake of “Swimming Pool.” We’re lucky he stayed at home.