Banned in Singapore, Ozon’s early satirical if uneven black comedy asks of us to reimagine the limits of morality as a middle-class family ‘rebalances’ itself through debauchery, sadomasochism and incest.
Dir. Francois Ozon
1998 | France | Comedy/Drama | 85 mins | 1.66:1 | French
Banned in Singapore – exceeds R21 guidelines
Cast: Evelyne Dandry, Francois Marthouret, Marina de Van
Plot: A conventional French family lives in apparent harmony until one day the father brings home a pet rat. One by one, as they come into contact with the rat, each member of the family goes to pieces and their hidden sexual and psychological perversions are exposed.
International Sales: Celluloid Dreams
Subject Matter: Mature – Homosexuality, Morality
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Niche Arthouse
Francois Ozon’s first proper feature if you discount his 1997’s See the Sea, Sitcom is a taboo-busting work by a filmmaker who is not afraid to tackle provocative themes. Still banned in Singapore, I got the chance to see it on MUBI.
It is not exactly an important work by any stretch of the imagination, but Sitcom will thrill film enthusiasts looking to track Ozon’s beginnings as well as those with a taste for dark comedy.
Functioning as a horror-comedy that asks of us to reimagine the limits of morality as members of a middle-class family engage in wanton debauchery, discover sadomasochism and explore incest with each other and external parties.
With a highly-satirical tone, it’s quite remarkable how light-hearted Ozon’s film is despite the subject matter—if Yorgos Lanthimos or Michael Haneke ever made a pure comedy, it might turn out to be something like this.
One might, however, find Sitcom to be ultimately inconsequential and uneven in its treatment of so-called social immoralities, but as an LGBT film (the implications of homosexuality are explored substantively), it does portray rather positively the need to accept others for who they are.
It sees conservatism, as characterised by the patriarch of the family, as a hindrance to the freedom of individual choice and development of self-identity.
While Ozon’s film may be extreme in approaching this theme, it is meant to shock you, just like the mysterious pet rat that the father brings into the household that ironically sparks the cosmic rebalancing of personal values.