DVD Review: The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq is an award-winning author, poet and filmmaker. He’s probably best known for his novel Atomised, which was adapted to film and won the Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. He’s a controversial author who’s faced accusations of obscenity, racism, misogyny and Islamophobia. He’s also notable for his press stunts, often leading to the aforementioned controversy. In his books, the main protagonist is often called Michel or “our hero”, and in Guillaume Nicloux’s film The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq he takes this one step further.

Michel Houellebecq (playing himself) is a successful writer who lives a solitary and miserable life. One day Max (Maxime Lefrançois), Luc (Luc Schwarz) and Mathieu (Mathieu Nicourt) turn up at his apartment and kidnap him. He’s taken to Françoise’s (Françoise Lebrun) house in a gypsy community. His captors gradually warm to him, quizzing him on a range of intellectual issues, whilst Michel is more concerned about when his next glass of red wine or cigarette is coming. As they await the payment of his ransom, it becomes more evident that Michel is in no particular hurry to be released.

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is a bizarre and amusing comedy where it’s not always clear who is holding who to ransom. In the same style as Michel Gondry or Charlie Kaufman, there’s a weird self-parody and knowingness throughout. Muslims are replaced by gypsies in a clever rebuttal to his critics, and his kidnappers even produce a migrant prostitute for him, which alludes to claims that his book Platform promoted sex tourism. The concept behind Guillaume Nicloux’s film came from a false rumour that Houellebecq had been kidnapped when he couldn’t get online, and everything is wonderfully tongue in cheek.

The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is released on DVD by Studio Canal on December 22.

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