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One morning Maude (Isabelle Hupert) wakes up in her bed - left side of her body paralysed. Thus begins a road to recovery. Some time later we see our heroine leading seemingly full life. Also never completely recovered from a stroke she is a successful director with many plans for the future. When she casts notorious con man Vilko Piran as a protagonist in her new film, their friendship makes a strange turn which leads Maud towards self destruction.
Director Catherine Breillat is a legend of European cinema, known for deep exploration of sex and violence in her works. Even though she is almost prudent in this very personal account of her own story, ABUSE OF WEAKNESS is still a very hard film to watch.
Catherine herself experienced a stroke in 2004 and had been forced into giving large sums of money to a real life con man, whom she later sent to jail. The movie is a harrowing account of the heroine's first physical, then emotional suffering. Maude is portrayed as a strong willed, unbreakable woman who loves to laugh her troubles away, but she still falls prey to a predator. ABUSE OF WEAKNESS is as manipulative, as a movie about a physically and emotionally handicapped person being led into a trap can be. While it is dealing casually with the rotten friendship between Vilko and Maude, little by little, a deep cavern in their relationship emerges, and it sucks out anything good that's left in the lives of both.
Isabelle Hupert deserves every praise for her portrayal of a stroke patient. It is a physically demanding role and with the film's actual shooting time spanning only a few days makes it an incredible achievement for an actor.
ABUSE OF WEAKNESS is not entertaining, but is powerful. It's biggest flaw may be being too personal. No artist can be fully detached from it's subject. The scene where Maude is being interrogated by her family about giving her money away sums up it all: "It was me," she says. "But it wasn't me."
Just like Catherine Breillat, Maude is an artist. And aren't artists the biggest cons of them all?