Francois Ozon's low-key latest
The Refuge

One of Europe’s most consistently fascinating directors, Francois Ozon has delivered outrageous black comedy (Sitcom), an elaborate musical whodunit (8 Women) and one of the finest crossover art films of the past decade (Swimming Pool). His work is often infused with controversy and that trait is innate here. Mousse and Louis are a heroin addicted couple; their fixes graphically depicted as needles are thrust into veins - a destitute ‘highlight’ being a plunge into a neck. An overdose eliminates Louis, leaving a pregnant Mousse to recover in a country house accompanying only by her deceased lover’s brother Paul.

Like Swimming Pool, The Refuge focuses on two contrasting characters in an isolated environment which pushes their characters and sexuality into new ground. Beautifully shot without being self-consciously stylised, drama takes second stage to a personal psychological tension which seeks to question the conventions that would otherwise inform its protagonists: Mousse isn’t the doomed romantic addict that cinema seems to adore, or, later, a glowing expectant mother; Paul can’t be defined by the loss of his brother or his blurred sexuality. Deliberately low-key, The Refuge’s intelligence makes it an intriguing view, even if it’s too slight to match the peaks of Ozon’s filmography.


Words by Ben Hopkins

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