By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
Michel Houellebecq’s novels undoubtedly have a cinematic quality, and several of them have transferred to the screen: there was a decent attempt at his short first novel Extension du domaine de la lutte (1994, Whatever; why didn’t the translator of the novel go the whole hog and call it “Whatevs”?) I haven’t seen the film version of his finest novel Les Particules élémentaires (1998, Atomised), but recall that the film of the frankly not very good Possibilité d’une île (2005) was, as they say, universally panned. Plateforme (2001) and the Goncourt prizewinning La Carte et le territoire (2010) await cinematic treatment.
But it was only a matter of time before the author himself took to the silver screen. The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq,directed by Guillaume Nicloux, has him playing himself as the victim of an amateurish kidnap gang of three (one very large, the second a bodybuilder, the third a gentle hard man). While there is something curiously narcissistic about Houellebecq playing himself, he has already placed himself at the centre of his fiction: the best scene in The Map and the Territory involves the discovery of the mutilated body of one Michel Houellebecq. But it has to be said he is the very negation of the matinee idol; indeed there is something sleazy about his onscreen persona; the tics are all there: his curious way of holding a cigarette (and he’s nearly always smoking) between middle and ring finger, his anti-social habits, his terrible dress sense. He appears vulnerable and lost, at one point shuffling through a park holding a large plastic glass of lager.