I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!


tn_amourHollywood is always trying to shove these movies down our throats that are just about a bunch of Hollywood bullshit, like a kid and his talking horse use teleportation to win the Super Bowl, or there’s a serial killer holding a fighting tournament in the sewers to prove his love for a girl, or whatever all these popular movies are now, I would never watch them so I wouldn’t know. But it’s all super heroes and comics books and nothing for the rest of us. What about the grown ups who don’t want to see IRON SPIDER RISES PART 32 or STAR WARS IN THE DARKNESS, we just want to see a nice movie about a French couple in their 80s being miserable in their apartment as the wife becomes increasingly mentally and physically debilitated and the husband has to feed and bathe her and they’re both completely tormented by pain and boredom and we watch in long, static shots as they cry and look off into the distance and agonizingly wait for the sweet comfort of death? No wonder there’s all this piracy and video games, if Hollywood won’t deliver what the people really want. For what we want we gotta go to Michael Haneke.

Okay, I shouldn’t be so flippant. I’m making fun of people with that attitude, but not making the reverse argument. I don’t want to imply that there shouldn’t be room for this, or that it’s boring. AMOUR is a well-made and engrossing movie. I don’t mind it being nominated for best picture. It’s weird that enough people would vote for this to get in and not THE MASTER, but I’m not judging. Emmanuelle Riva (RISKY BUSINESS [1967]) and Jean-Louis Trintignant (AVATAR [1964]) play the couple, who when we first see them together are still very mobile and with it, they go to a concert, come home, have a nice conversation, like married-people-date-night. But later Ann has some sort of attack, she’s upright but unresponsive, and they find out about a problem with her brain, she needs surgery. Haneke makes a good choice to skip over all the medical stuff. There are no hospital scenes, we only see their life at home in their apartment as her condition gets worse and worse.

mp_amourAt first she tries to be positive, reads books, doesn’t want him to wait on her hand and foot because that would be “absurd and oppressive.” They have a few good conversations still, despite the looming spectre of horribleness. But it’s not long before she’s paralyzed and her main activity in life is wanting to die. First she can barely speak the words she wants to, then her brain starts to go and she mumbles only gibberish, startling her visiting daughter (Isabelle Huppert). We gotta see the poor lady’s humiliation and misery as she wets herself, has to be fed slop, and tries to kill herself the only way she possibly could: by spitting out any water he squirts in her mouth.

Of course it’s a moving portrait and the two leads give outstanding, heartbreaking performances. Riva is winning awards and getting all the attention, but Trintignant is equally great. And it’s never schmaltzy at all. In fact it’s so minimalistic it becomes almost comical at times. There’s a scene near the end that’s very sweet and meaningful, it has one of the best moments in the movie, but it still makes me laugh that it’s like a 5 minute uninterrupted shot of an old man walking around in circles trying over and over again to drop a blanket on a bird that got in his window. Then in the next scene we watch him write a letter about how he was just trying to throw a blanket on a bird. Then the next scene is a flashback of him trying to drop the blanket on the bird. Okay, that’s not true, there’s not a flashback, but everything else I said was true. This scene was loosely adapted from the famous Family Circus Jeffy-Cries-Because-a-Bird-Flew-in-the-House series of April 25-30, 1994.

I have a limited knowledge of Haneke, because I’ve only seen FUNNY GAMES (the first version) and now this. I know CACHE is supposed to be great. For a long time he’s been known for kinda dark, fucked up movies, but he’s gone into the respectability realm with WHITE RIBBON and this. AMOUR has Oscar nominations for best picture, best director, best original screenplay, best foreign film and best actress. It has already won BAFTAs for best film not in the English language and best actress, plus the informal Vern award for biggest reason Seth McFarlane is a smarmy asshole douchebag for when McFarlane made a Hitler joke while announcing its Oscar nominations. When I went to see it on a Saturday afternoon the theater was packed with all the white-haired people who would make an effort to see an Oscar-nominated movie about older folks, which is crazy. I think this is the absolute last movie anybody should watch when they’re getting up there in years. I’d sooner recommend THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. Give me GRAN TORINO.

Now I think I’m gonna lose everybody here, because I tried reading other people’s thoughts on the movie and kept seeing words like “tender” and “humane,” but to me it seems like it’s mostly the opposite. I think despite all the recognition and the acceptable subject matter this movie is exactly like FUNNY GAMES: a well-crafted, smartly-structured movie made with admirable stylistic restraint that feels like it was made by a cruel asshole whose primary goal is to punish people for watching his movie. If Haneke’s looking for something tender it’s so he knows where to stick the knife in.

I guess I still hold a grudge against him for FUNNY GAMES. It’s such an intense thriller and then it tells us how we’re a bunch of sickos for watching movies like this and we should all be ashamed of ourselves. If he still stands by that (which I’m sure he does, having done a shot-for-shot English-language remake 5 years ago for the sole purpose of delivering his condescending lecture to more Americans) then AMOUR really shows his hypocrisy. Tell me, Professor Haneke, why is it sick for us to want to watch a family triumph over the evil that invades their home, but admirable to watch long, uninterrupted shots of this poor lady having to be spoon fed slop when she would rather starve to death? In fact, AMOUR is more like a torture porn than a slasher. You can’t root for her to get away.

I had to really think on it to come up with a possible reason to make this movie. It’s not like it’s trying to bring awareness to a problem people don’t know about, and I don’t think it’s trying to preach about euthanasia. I decided eventually that maybe it’s about dying with dignity, that people have the right to pass away at home and not some dreary hospice, and that even then maybe it’s wrong to let your loved ones continue to hang on when they don’t want to. But I don’t know, man. Even if that’s what it’s about, it feels to me like Haneke’s also trying to rub our nose in shit. Hey, you there. If you’re lucky enough not to bite it before your time you’re probly gonna have to wait until after your time. You’ll have hell to pay when you get old. And hey, how ’bout a sample? Why not experience some of that pain now? What else do you have to do this afternoon? Nothing of value, knowing you.

Isn’t it kind of like a cancer movie that doesn’t really have a plot, doesn’t have an attempt to overcome adversity or to value precious life or say goodbyes… just a person slowly, horribly dying, while their loved ones stand by helplessly? I think it’s pretty much that.

Haneke’s FUCK YOU style of filmmaking begins with the cynical opening smash cut from the discovery of decomposing bodies to the title, LOVE, and ends with the music-less end credits. He could have easily used any of the classical piano pieces mentioned throughout the movie, but he chose silence because fuck you, American dogs. You do not deserve the comfort of music. Sit there or leave like cowards. You sicken me.

The opening scene, at the concert, has an uncomfortably long shot of the audience sitting and waiting for the show to start. There must be 100 faces on screen and they’re all very clear because of the digital photography. These people are situated to watch something, they seem completely unaware of you watching them, and it makes you feel very self-conscious. I don’t know what the point is, but I think that’s how he wants us to feel. Don’t be comfortable. The movie is watching you back.

Other than that opening I believe the entire thing takes place inside their apartment, and is photographed in long, static shots with no artifice. It’s the right choice for the movie but it’s another joke on the audience that the cinematographer is Darius Khondji (CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, SEVEN, EVITA). It’s like hiring a great chef to pour you a bowl of cereal. Cereal is the right choice ’cause you’re gonna be late for work otherwise, but come on, why’d you hire the chef? You gotta be fucking with us, right?

Alot of times when actors or directors get alot of acclaim then Hollywood tries to snatch them up for a comic book movie. So I’m thinking Riva for Wonder Woman and Haneke for Spider-man 3. He would be so outraged if they asked him, I would love it.

In conclusion, when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s most definitely not AMOUR.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, February 18th, 2013 at 12:59 pm and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

67 Responses to “Amour”

  1. Just a few minutes ago I saw a review for this and the reviewer was clearly smitten, proclaiming it a great film, so thank God for Vern cutting through that kind of bullshit.

    This is precisely the kind of misery porn mainstream critics cream in their immaculately creased slacks over.

    Haneke strikes me as a hateful character, making hateful films. I saw FUNNY GAMES (utter shit) and that was me done with him.

    I’m sure he’ll eventually remake this in the States with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Fucking Streep.

  2. I still wonder who would win in a pretentious, self-loving asshole arthouse film maker fight. Haneke, von Trier or Peter Greenaway?

  3. One Guy From Andromeda

    February 18th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    This hatred of his audience is the thing that always rubs me the wrong way about Haneke too. The Piano Teacher is the only one of his movies that got me (great source material maybe), all the others i saw left me with the feeling that the film maker gave me a swift kick in the balls – why are you watching this movie you asshole, this is what you get.

  4. I thought, Haneke being a hateful fuck and all, this was more of a “living is horrible, even for the sweetest couple”, so more of a MELANCHOLIA-type deal than an explicit “fuck you viewer”. I never finished watching SALO, but maybe more in that vein.

  5. FUNNY GAMES was enough Haneke for me. I’m not gonna support a guy who has the nerve to call me a sick fuck for daring to watch the kind of movie he devoted years of his life to making. It wasn’t daring or provocative or subversive, it was just smug and obvious and showed a profound lack of understanding of the purpose of violence in drama. It was one long Andy Kaufman joke: Hilarious for the guy making it, a total ripoff for the people watching it. A guy who would do something like that is not a guy I want anything to do with.

  6. yeah, sorry, Michael Haneke personifies pretentious for me, I can’t say I have any desire in seeing any of his movies, especially this one, I’m fucking depressed enough as is, I don’t need to watch a movie about old people slowly dying, I mean Goddamn

    it’s not that I don’t mind a good FUCK YOU movie, not at all, in fact I kinda like it, sometimes, but there has to be at least some entertainment value, some dark comedy, some kind of friggin’ point to it, just something beyond a simple FUCK YOU, when a movie truly feels like it’s holding you in contempt then I go fuck you back and turn it off or just avoid it

    I mean, this is a movie about old people sitting in an apartment and slowly dying, who wants to watch that? if this wins best picture I’m officially never watching the Academy Awards ever again, I’m dead serious, that’s all folks

    by the way, I watched a Michael Haneke influenced movie recently called AFTERSCHOOL, don’t know if anyone here has seen it, it has some interesting stuff to say about my generation, some effectively creepy moments (especially the ending) but it also has lots of long scenes of people doing fucking nothing, which are boring as hell and serve no real point, I don’t get it, why do filmmakers make movies like that? it’s the definition of pretentious

  7. No,Ingmar Bergman personifies pretentiousness. And that is a completely objective observation.

  8. I have not actually seen an Ingmar Bergman film, but at least that guy doesn’t (didn’t?) seem to hold his audience in contempt

  9. If you grow up within a society that frowns upon any cultural output that is associated with the common people, you are bound to grow up angry and bitter especially if you are among the common people. Which I am. I hate him.

  10. who? Bergman or Haneke?

    I can understand Bergman hate, to me it’s like the film equivalent of ballet or something, just not my cup of tea

  11. No I mean Bergman. Ballet, I understand. That shit is beautiful. But Bergman represents a side of cinema and cultural tradition in Sweden that I have a personal crusade against.

  12. I’d argue with you Vern that there’s no way this is not boring but since I’d rather take a bullet than watch this shit I’ll have to take your word for it.

  13. it warms my heart to learn that we all hate Haneke here

  14. Yeah, this film got to a point where my girlfriend and I couldn’t help but giggle through it like naughty children in church (I made a not-very-funny-in-retrospect remark about how this was a sequel to all of those Nicholas Sparks movies). Haneke just kept underlining the same point over and over again. I read a review that said this was Haneke’s elegy to the death of the art film (hence the long shot of the audience at the beginning) but I think that reviewer might be reading too much into it (he also compared Haneke to Nas, but said Nas was better). If I want to watch a Trintignant movie with a downer ending, I’ll just watch THE GREAT SILENCE again. This movie certainly could have used Klaus Kinski shooting everyone in the head.

  15. I see Haneke a different way. Funny Games wasn’t about wallowing in movie violence and then hypocritically condemning the audience. It was about the hypocrisy, not an unintended example of it. Like, there are racist jokes, and then there are jokes about racists. Similar content, completely different intent and message.

    “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
    “Because there was a black dude walking toward him.”

    See, that’s not a racist joke: it’s not saying that the proper response in such a situation is to cross the road. It’s laughing at the chicken for being racist. (C’mon, what’s funnier than a racist chicken?)

    For some reason people get this when the subject is Nazis: put a Nazi in a movie, and it’s taken for granted that you’re anti-Nazi. But try the same thing with other serious subjects, like rape or misogyny–or hypocrisy–and half the audience will assume that including it as subject matter is tacit approval.

    Point being, Haneke was fucking right, in Funny Games: we ARE split between being titillated by onscreen violence and condemning the real thing. How is he even slightly mistaken to point out that we make torture porn movies because that’s what people want to see? The characters in Funny Games–and Saw and Hostel etc. for that matter–are not real people. They are fictional characters created for the sole purpose of indulging an audience’s desire to see them tortured and killed. How in the screaming bloody fuck is Haneke wrong for acknowledging that?

    But maybe it’s just me. I’m a died in the wool cynic, and my favorite filmmakers are the ones who draw an audience in with a seductive surface and them in the gut with ugly truths. Sirk, Von Trier, Verhoeven, Haneke–all masters of the the spoonful of sugar hiding a poison pill. I fucking love that shit. How is that not better than say Spielberg, who draws people in with a seductive surface and then feeds them bullshit?

    There are consequences to not thinking for yourself; taking everything at face value just because it’s shiny, or because Steven Spielberg tells you to. These directors understand that, which makes their movies far more provocative and interesting. They specialize in leaving the audience with a question, rather than a pat answer, which yes please.

    (As for the Funny Games “remake,” I give Haneke a lot more benefit of the doubt. I choose to imagine that the American distributor of the German language original wanted to make more money on the film, but was stymied by the U.S. audience’s fear of subtitles. Haneke’s response, to reproduce the film shot for shot, line for line, brick for brick, is like saying: “I already made the fucking movie once. If Americans don’t want to read subtitles, fine, give me the paycheck and I’ll make what is essentially a dubbed version of the movie that I already fucking made.”)

  16. I guess I’m going to have to go against the unanimous Haneke hatefest and say I really loved this movie. Sorry guys.

    To me the movie didn’t seem hateful at all. I guess I’m one of these assholes who found it kind of uplifting. I mean, it’s all about someone devoting his entire life to caring for someone under the most horrible of circumstances. What could be a purer expression of love than that? I liked how minimalistic it was in it’s presentation, putting the characters and their emotional journey front and center, and how you were trapped with them in their apartment. Then occassionally you have people puncturing their little bubble and questioning their actions, and you even kind of agree with them. This old guy probably isn’t the best person to be providing care to his terminally ill wife. But he made a promise to her and he’s going to keep it.

    I know I’m not going to change anyone’s mind and I don’t have any big revelations as to what the film is all about. It just packed a pretty big emotional punch for me because, like many here I’m sure, I’ve had someone very close to me die slowly of a terrible illness. I guess it was kind of cathartic? I don’t know.

    Oh, and everyone should check out the hilarious Michael Haneke fake twitter account (@michael_haneke)

  17. I don’t know, Shoot McKay, THE VIRGIN SPRING had some bad-ass dummy throwing.

  18. I liked Amour, yeah it’s about death and getting old, and that can be sad and depressing to contemplate, but that’s the point of the film isn’t it? That this shit will happen to us all, and maybe if we would acknowledge and come to grips with that fact, the burden and illness associated with dying wouldn’t be so full of bullshit.

    The best thing I got out of this movie was the push to watch Hiroshima Mon Amour to see Emmanuelle Riva in her first film. Really enjoyed that one.

  19. Hehe. A pretentious, didactic defense of a pretentious didactic asshole. Good one.

  20. charley cvercko – I beliiiiiiiiiiiiive in a world where one can enjoy both cynical gut punch movies AND Steven Spielberg movies

    that said, I still don’t have any interest in Haneke, I have too darn many other movies to watch

  21. I have yet to see this one but it seems great because it actually deals with old people. Yeah,that´s right Hollywood. Not just people who recently been hatched from their eggs. Old wrinkly ones, soon to be wrapped into blankets and put six feet into ground, can be pretty interesting too, you know.

  22. I’m sorry though, dissing Steven Spielberg is inherently pretentious, if one can’t appreciate say Jaws or Raiders of The Lost Ark then their opinions are not ones that I care to listen to, no offense

  23. I don’t watch Hanecke films for the same reason that I don’t watch “torture porn” films. They both want to rub the audience’s nose in filth. Hanecke might have a clearer reason why he wants to do this, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant.

    I’m surprised people are ragging on Ingmar Bergman. He has become the definition of European art house cinema over the past several decades, but I think a lot of his films (although not all of them) don’t really match people’s perceptions of them. In fact, there’s a lot of humor in Bergman that contrasts with his existentialist questioning. There are moments in The Seventh Seal or Wild Strawberries that are really funny. The Death character, for instance, has a real sense of humor about him. Not having seen Amour, I would hold up Wild Strawberries as a film that touches on similar themes, but probably in a more uplifting manner, even if it doesn’t completely ignore our collective fear of death.

  24. That first sentence should read “I haven’t watched Haneke films.” There may very well be a time where I want to watch some of his movies, but I’ve been avoiding them over the years. Not watching his movies isn’t some blanket rule or anything. I like to think I’m a little more open minded than that.

  25. Charley: Haneke’s points in FUNNY GAMES aren’t wrong. They’re just thunderingly obvious and condescending. Oh, what’s this? Violent films indulge the audience’s inherent bloodlust in a way that can be both cathartic and unsettlingly voyeuristic? STOP BLOWING MY FUCKING MIND MAN. Real, actual horror movies have been making that point for decades, but you’re right, it takes some arthouse snob to really put it across with a phony piece of smug self-congratulatory post-modern horseshit that thinks it’s too good to just tell a fucking story and not be an essay about its own genius. Anybody who actually watches the kind of violent films Haneke lowers himself to make has already wrestled with these issues. It’s nothing new. Wes Craven made all the same points in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, but he had the nuts to take it seriously. The poster told you it was only a movie, not the movie itself. Wes trusted everyone to notice that on their own. Haneke has no such faith.

  26. I’ve only seen 3 Haneke films, this, The White Ribbon and The Piano Teacher, and with only those 3 he became one of my favorite filmmakers.

    They all pack a punch, and make you think.

    The white ribbon, has one of the most disturbing, horrible torture scenes, that just let my mouth open, and is just one person insulting another, but telling the most horrible shit you can imagine telling another person.

    The no score its his gimmick, he uses music when characters are playing it, but no score at all.

    They are beautifully shot too.

  27. Almodovar is another of my favorite directors, so yeah, i’m kinda of a art house freak, but Vern should see The Skin i live in, i think its right up his alley.

  28. Second the recommendation for The Skin I Live In. That movie is brutal but is never pretentious.

  29. I like THE SKIN I LIVE IN as well. It’s like Almodovar’s version of a Cronenberg movie.

    RBatty: Yeah, watching Ingmar Bergman movies sometimes feels like eating your cinematic vegetables, but THE SEVENTH SEAL is actually very entertaining.

  30. “a cruel asshole whose primary goal is to punish people for watching his movie.”

    Best description of Haneke I’ve ever heard.

    I wouldn’t compare him to somebody like Lars VT, cuz von Trier’s movies offer redemption, catharsis, etc. (ie the end of Dogville).

    Haneke pretends to offer that shit, but then a character rewinds the fucking film and undoes it.

  31. who knows, maybe one day I’ll get around to watching an Ingmar Bergman film

  32. Haven’t seen this yet but fabulous review, Vern, and love these comments.

    My first Bergman movie was PERSONA in a high school film class. The teacher was challenging us and I fell into the youthful trap of dismissing it for being nonlinear and boring and meaningless. I should give that shit another chance now that I’m Franchise Fred and it’s part of the Bergman franchise.

    I know I’ve seen SEVENTH SEAL but I can’t remember a strong reaction. I probably only saw it as an adjunct to LAST ACTION HERO and BILL AND TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY.

  33. Griff, don’t be put off by Bergman’s reputation. A lot of his movies could be seen as eerie, expressionist horror movies, in the same vein as NIGHT OF THE HUNTER or REPULSION. My favorite is WILD STRAWBERRIES because of its creepy as fuck dream sequences, but SEVENTH SEAL, VIRGIN SPRING, and HOUR OF THE WOLF also satisfy as quirky genre pieces. If you can get past the idea of them being important works of art, they’re actually fun. They don’t feel like homework at all.

  34. I do think Haneke is wrong in FUNNY GAMES though, because he doesn’t acknowledge (or understand?) that we’re rooting for her to get away. In the moment before the big rewind gimmick we’re not happy because she shot the bad guy, we’re happy because maybe she’s gonna be able to make a run for it. The main point of a good thriller or slasher movie is NOT to see people killed, it’s to see people get away. You want Laurie in HALLOWEEN to get away, you want Sally in TEXAS CHAIN SAW to get away, you want Nancy in ELM STREET to get away, you want Ripley in ALIEN to get away… These are the ones that the formula is based on. There’s almost always one or more survivor and it’s usually disappointing when there’s not.

    But thank you Charley and others for defending Haneke and AMOUR. I was starting to feel like an asshole that everyone here was shitting on this widely acclaimed movie. I fully acknowledge that mine is an extreme minority opinion and not necessarily fair.

  35. And by the way, accusing anything of being pretentious is pretentious.

  36. I’m a little surprised by the level of hatred for Haneke here – for me he’s made as many good films as anyone this past decade or so. I totally understand people not liking him but hope they dislike a bunch of his films and not just Funny Games. Its a pretty weak film aespecially if you are a horror film aficionado (like Mr Majestyk and a lot of the posters here). Hidden, White Ribbon, Code Unknown, Time of the Wolf are all much better. My first John Carpenter film was Memoirs of an Invisible Man but Im glad I gave him another shot!

    I also liked Amour but find the critical response really baffling. Its a cold, detached film (typical Haneke really) but its getting so much praise for its warmth and humanity because its about an old couple. Surely its more manipulative to make this style of film about an sweet old couple?

  37. pretentious is an over used word, but sometimes you got to call a spade a spade

  38. FUNNY GAMES (both the New Flavor Dance and the Original Recipe Flavor) are total and complete buckets of shit for a myriad of already well established reasons. Having said that, THE PIANO TEACHER is one of my absolute favourite films of all time and at the *very* least, Haneke’s films provoke genuinely strong responses in their audiences so they can’t really be accused of being passive experiences which is a quality inherent in most of his work that I (sometimes begrudgingly) respect.

    Having said that, this thing sounds like a fucking chore.

  39. I too would defend “Amour” which can be read as something of a sick joke in the vein of his reputation — Haneke’s a funny guy, in that it seems like he’s amused to all interpretations of his films. This is a good review, Vern, but I disagree with your sentiments.

    And I do think Funny Games is kind of sick in its prankishness, particularly doubling over the joke with a remake. So that one… have at it, guys.

    But “Amour” feels akin to his last film, the creepy “The White Ribbon” in that it examines the roots of something. In “The White Ribbon,” we’re seeing the minor cracks in the pavement that lead to the worst historical atrocities of the twentieth century — the “roots of evil” one might say, and I would submit it’s a film about the Holocaust from a termite’s point of view. This is how that sort of hate starts, with a small community that doesn’t handle conflict well, and I prefer that more analytic approach to something as broad as “Schindler’s List” (not like it’s really fair to compare the two, but, oops).

    “Amour” seems concerned with the roots of the central relationship and their family. We see how this affliction is testing not only the present tense, but it’s stretching the boundaries of a history of romance. At the beginning, we see the couple engage in activities that are routine for them. But as the wife’s health deteriorates, we see the evolution of their shared love. And it’s not an easy transition – surprised you didn’t note the one gasp-worthy moment in the film, Vern. It’s halfway through, and I confess I was getting a little sleepy-eyed, but that woke me the fuck up. Everyone immediately regrets that, and it’s a speed-bump, but it’s a departure that suggests the growing pains that come with love that has to evolve to survive this tragedy.

    I think you also see it in the reactions of Isabelle Huppert’s character, who I wish was mentioned in this review, because it is significant, because Huppert is great as always and because mmm mmm Huppert. She’s totally justified to be worried, and to not be left out of this whole horrific process. But the husband does lock her out – they’re family, yes, but the couple’s shared love and promises are more important. And there is the Haneke-ish suggestion that this Amour between the couple, in these moments, has corrupted the trust between these characters. Doubt Huppert will be breaking bread with dad anytime soon after that ending.

    I mean, love can be fucked up, and it can be difficult, and it can warp us. Usually you see that between two young people still figuring each other out. You rarely see it from the perspective of some oldsters, but the problem still exists.

    Glad I saw the shout-out to “Afterschool” up there. Upsetting film, that. But the “long and pointless scenes of nothing” don’t add up only if you’re evaluating a film on a scene-by-scene basis, which I try not to, but I understand people who do. Gotta understand the film as a whole, concerning beyond-DePalma in voyuerism and burgeoning perversions, and how it warps our concepts of sex and death at an impressionable age. With that and the upcoming “Simon Killer,” director Antonio Campos seems like our most promising filmmaker as far as honestly depicting the modern sociopath, sans meta-textualism and winking gags. Some of you just ironically said, “Yipee.” Yeah, I know, I know.

    Also, Vern, review “Cache”! It might be Haneke’s “most commercial” (el oh el) as far as Ron Howard trying to remake it awhile back. Which, you know… fucking kill me. But not only is it pretty insightful about the ugliness of the contemporary aftermath from the French-Algerian War (inadvertently revealing truths about the recent racial strife in French territories, given that Haneke seems more fascinated with the past). But it’s also a real nasty Hitchcockian thriller, only with “fill in the blanks” scare scenes where Hitchcock would put explanations and MacGuffins.

    For those who don’t know, the hook of the film involves a well-off French couple who receive a new videotape every day in their mailbox, capturing surveillance footage of their home from the outside. That’s it. Also, they sometimes receive some threatening, and totally obtuse drawings. It’s a threat, but what kind of a threat? Are they in danger? Also, it’s not some sort of arty metaphor… someone is watching them, the tapes are real. The question is, what does he/she want, and why? The answer is politically complicated (again, fuck off, Ron Howard), but still pretty creepy. It’s my favorite Haneke by a mile.

    Apologies for the long post.

  40. Also, Haneke’s “Time Of The Wolf” really works if you consider it what’s going on offscreen during Spielberg’s “War Of The Worlds.” I borrowed that statement from someone else, but it is apt.

  41. I guess I forgot something big then. What was the gasp worthy moment?

  42. That videotape thing sounds scary. At least it scared the shit out of me in LOST HIGHWAY.

  43. I’ve always been in Shoot’s corner on Bergman. And I feel pretty much the same about Haneke and Von Trier. I think pretentious is a good word. But put more simply I think they create false realities just to ask questions they can’t be arsed to give the answers to. Life’s just to short for that kind of shit.

  44. Man, I’m surprised about the amount of hatred of Haneke and/or his films here, especially Funny Games. It’s been more then ten years since I saw it but I remember it like few other movies because is was such a serious punch in the gut, and not in a wrong way (i.e. me being taught a lesson by Haneke). I saw it as a realistic portrayal of something we consider entertainment, and it made a clear point that violence, especially in that context – a it-could-happen-in-real-life situation – is anything but terrible. That being said I still enjoy thrillers that use such situations to build tension and thus entertain us, and yes I will cheer when the bad guys get it in the end, but what’s wrong with a film that makes us a little more sensitive in our reception? Though I might be wrong I never had the idea that Haneke was trying to generally condemn on-screen violence. I always considered his message to be aimed more at teenagers and young adults who grow up with a shitload of violent entertainment and might get the wrong idea about it’s implications. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion.

    I also really like The White Ribbon, and I think that there’s nothing wrong with portraying a situation such as in Amour just as sad and depressing as it is, though I have not yet seen the film. I also applaud Hanekes restraint in using any music as I feel many dramas hit you over the head with their manipulative music, leaving almost no room for personal feelings/experiences playing any part in how you feel about what happens on the screen.

  45. CACHE is tremendous.

  46. The Original... Paul

    February 19th, 2013 at 6:39 am

    I unironically liked “Funny Games”. Not sure I can defend it against those who say it’s pretentious or obvious, because it’s both of those things. But neither spoilt the movie for me.

    The biggest problem I have with many horror movies, especially “slashers”, is that the characters are so unlikeable that I find myself rooting for the big scary guy with the machete.

    I was considering seeing this one; but after “Buried”, I have a phobia of movies taking place in a very small space involving very few characters.

  47. I’d like to also say that Vern should get down with some THE SKIN I LIVE IN, cause that movie is cray.

  48. I love Funny Games. (Only saw the new one.)

    Once Tommy Gnosis pulls the remote out, I cackled.

    It’s the same way I feel about Lars von Trier (and Peter Greenaway, for that matter.) – watching these guys be dicks to their audience cracks me up.

    And their movies are flawlessly crafted! It’s okay that I derive joy from that, right?

    I love that a movie like Funny Games makes people so angry that my enjoyment of it is declared trolling. And the thing is, I don’t think Michael Haneke would have a clue as to why I find him so entertaining.

    It’s like the Seinfeld where George and Susan have dinner with both their parents – the futility of bridging the gap between each set of participants and their varying intentions and approaches is innately hilarious, and the result is a simmering cauldron of anger and resentment.

    And yet, people pay money to see this guy’s movies, and he devotes his life to making them, and no one seems to be on the same page as to why any of it is happening… and they’re so lovingly well-made!

    Obviously, everyone involved is nuts.


  49. Regarding the above, I feel I have almost the exact same stance on John Carter of Mars.

    I had a great time in the theater (actually a drive-in with a double bill of John Carter and Avengers, so fucking rad), can’t wait for a beer and some Indian food, then later I casually wander over to the internet and Planet Earth hates me for having a nice time in the dark while some pictures flashed and people played pretend.

  50. The gasp-worthy moment in “Amour” happened when SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT LOOK OUT BOSS he’s feeding her, and she’s not responding, and he gets so frustrated he slaps her right across the face. A real OH SHIT moment for some of the viewers behind me.

  51. Speaking of the Oscars, I can’t wait for sunday to get over with.

    I frequently visit a message board that speculate/debate all things Oscar, and my god its a pissy circus over there with ARGO’s apparent impending victory. And I bitch back at them for how they would be pissy if LINCOLN was going to win (they would dismiss that as feel good, Oscar bait period piece) or whatever.

    As long as a worthelss movie like CRASH isn’t in serious contention, I can’t get upset about the Oscars. Sure I might want this or that to win over this or that, but you know its like prefering Dr. Pepper over Coca-Cola. Most people like CC over Dr. Pepper, both are good soft drinks that lead you quicker to the grave.

    I mean take cinematography. I think LIFE OF PI, even though personally I’m rooting for Deakins but I’m afraid he’s gonna get snubbed again. But LIFE OF PI is a worthy winner I suppose.

    Its gotta be a bullshit winner, like the sort Cracked.com would make articles about (like they did the Grammys), to get me riled up.

  52. It’s become a cliche to complain about the Oscars. The “Best Picture” nominees aren’t really the best pictures of the year, you say? You mean there are dozens of less popular movies that deserve that designation? Wow, you just completely blew my mind! I’ve come to the point where I enjoy talking about the nominees with people, even if I recognize that there are better films out there. The Oscars are there to promote Hollywood in general and the nominees specifically. If you take offense to that (and I think that’s a legitimate reaction), then the best thing to do is ignore the ceremony altogether. We’ve all heard about how crappy the Oscars are. We don’t need to rehash those arguments.

  53. Vern — these guys are right, you really should see CACHE, and would probably enjoy WHITE RIBBON. They’re closer to the Haneke who made the first part of FUNNY GAMES — the excellent thriller, rather than the didactic throwaway joke. The guy can be an excellent director when he doesn’t let the moral get in the way. The only reason anyone takes him seriously enough to put up with his bullshit is because the talent is there. If you write him off and never see CACHE you’ll be missing out, and doomed to a life of sounding like Paul talking about Jet Li having only seen THE ONE and KISS OF THE DRAGON.

  54. Vern- does that mean I´m being pretentious for calling out Bergman a pretentious douchebag? I don´t understand that at all.

  55. Woody Allen knows how best to make use of Darius Khondji’s talents.

    Someday I’ll see this. I’ve never been blown away by a Haneke (seen 5 so far), but I enjoy participating in the argument, being part of that unique tension that exists among:
    -film critics who feel compelled to [over]praise him lest they be viewed as philistines;
    -genuine fans who think he’s something like a genius/super-artist;
    -political interpretations (“Those creepy kids later voted for Hitler!”);
    -the baffled crowd who thinks he’s everything comically stereotypically wrong/too European/too arthouse about cinema;
    -and myself, who’s a bit of all of the above and agrees with bits of arguments from each of the above.

    Doesn’t look like AMOUR will be much fun, but I’ll give it a go someday. THE WHITE RIBBON was indeed cinematic vegetables
    (though I actually like veggies, so maybe cinematic… grapefruit juice? Salted trail mix?),
    but I enjoyed being able to say I’ve seen it, comparing reactions, and finally tossing around ideas for companion films, films that “talk to each other,” for an imaginary film festival theme.
    I came up with “cult films: on cults, dangerous charisma, the rise of evil, and why good people do bad things” or something like that, and the line-up would consist of
    So, in that context, with a pre-defined task & purpose (other than “Ugh, a bunch of snooty critics gave this great reviews, and the Oscars is in a few days, so I *have* to watch it…”) and a basis of comparison to other films that touch on similar ideas, THE WHITE RIBBON could actually be *fun* to watch. Though presumably Haneke doesn’t want it to ever be “fun.” So that’s my “FUCK YOU” to Haneke — I found a way to semi-superficially enjoy your movies, asshole, you Austrian dog! Victory!


    I have no clue how Ingmar Bergman fits in anywhere in this conversation. Bergman made deeply personal films based on real experiences, real nightmares, real crises of faith, real philosophical interrogations & emotional longings — cinema was his canvas & his therapist.

    Haneke makes “fuck you”s that place as much distance between himself and his films’ subject matter as possible, other than maybe the occasional tiny behavioral or musical reference that might match up with something in his real-life mentality or experiences. Haneke’s oeuvre is experimental, political, & exploratory in a way that is intrinsically about everyone & everything *but* him; it’s deliberately gratingly detached and anti-personal (unless you wanna argue that he’s always projecting, somehow).


    Also, to address another upthread topic that came outta nowhere, La piel que habito (THE SKIN I LIVE IN) is atrocious.

    (relevant thoughts from the day I saw it: http://www.outlawvern.com/2011/03/26/sucker-punch/#comment-1743233 )

    I adore Pedro Almodóvar. I consider all his works to be Event Films. I defend his much-maligned, creepy, problematic kidnapping love story movie. I consider Hable con ella an all-time classic and La mala educación one of the very best movies of this century. But TSILI is way too rapey, way too self-aware in all the wrong places, and way to un-self-aware all over the place. I wish I had followed the 2 old ladies at my screening out of the theatre 40 minutes in.

  56. The Original... Paul

    February 19th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    “Doomed to a life of sounding like Paul talking about Jet Li having only seen THE ONE and KISS OF THE DRAGON.”

    I’m never gonna live that one down, am I?

  57. Mouth; “Bergman made deeply personal films based on real experiences, real nightmares, real crises of faith, real philosophical interrogations & emotional longings — cinema was his canvas & his therapist.” Bergman made movies about men who they’re so superior to everybody else that they must be allowed to skip everyday life and just think and sleep around. Relax Shoot, pretentious is still the word.

  58. I knew I could count on you,pegsman!

  59. Having seen Time of the Wolf, The Piano Teacher, Caché and Funny Games, it seems that I like the way Mr.Haneke tells a story. But I do not like works of art that tells the story of people going through extreme suffering to the inevitable ending (such as Gibson’s The Passion of Christ) so I think I’m going to give this one a miss.

    As for Haneke’s attitude towards the viewer in Funny Games, I remember being disturbed by that wink but then didn’t give it another thought during and after the viewing. Never felt the need to watch the remake either.

  60. Look, my Scandinavian friends, I never said Bergman was great here. I don’t care if you hate Bergman or find him pretentious. I’m just saying he’s about as far from the Haneke sensibility as possible.

    It’s like comparing the NY Times op-ed pages to the Wall Street Journal op-ed pages. Yes, they both deal in ink & paper, yes they both convey opinions about big issues, yes they both sometimes seem pompous or out of touch or pretentious, but, in terms of substance & philosophical approach to how to present their substance, they could hardly be further apart.

  61. Mouth, I don’t think Haneke’s that far away from Bergman, but I guess we just wanted to say to those who think the former is the king of pretentiousness that he’s just the crown prince. Or maybe just prince if we consider Lars Von Trier.

  62. Well shit, now I’m gonna have to watch more of these damned Haneke films. I do like PIANO TEACHER a lot more than FUNNY GAMES.

    Also this:
    “I consider Hable con ella an all-time classic and La mala educación one of the very best movies of this century.”

    I was REALLY comfortable ignoring Bad Education, but in light of how much I was blown away by watching Topsy Turvy on Mouth’s recommendation (BEST OF THE 90’s thread in the outlawforum) I don’t think I can do so anymore.

  63. I think FUNNY GAMES has been discussed to most people’s satisfaction, but maybe somebody will fight with me about it:

    “Point being, Haneke was fucking right, in Funny Games: we ARE split between being titillated by onscreen violence and condemning the real thing. How is he even slightly mistaken to point out that we make torture porn movies because that’s what people want to see?”

    I really think Haneke is a dirty little cheater with the way he tried to make this point. Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t the whole idea to remove the cathartic aspects from the genre so that people like me will realize that we suck for liking BEDEVILLED?

    But, we wouldn’t like it without the cathartic aspects. If they don’t get their revenge, or at least are given a sporting fucking chance (like, they lost due to properties of the physical world, not a magic remote control) then these movies cease holding the same sort of appeal. Don’t you have to play within the genre’s rules to criticize it?

    Vern mentions that they rewind the movie because Haneke is (mistakenly) saying, “This is what you want. You want them to be tortured.” But I think it might be the movie’s big wink to the audience (well, it’s OTHER big wink) in that the movie naturally wants to go a certain place, and Haneke has to abstain because he’s saying “NO, we can’t let anything enjoyable happen, we set out to make a film that you will hate and gosh darn it, that’s what we’re gunna do!” It’s sort of like where the movie admits that maybe it’s wrong, and only by interceding in an unnatural way can it support its own cruel thesis.

  64. FUNNY GAMES never seemed like a real movie to me; this assessment allows me to dismiss (or not be offended by) the parts that annoy me while allowing me to praise & ponder the few elements that I find worthy of deeper thought.

    Haneke either wasn’t even trying to make a real movie or, if he was, he’s really really bad at filmmaking & character development. I thought it was a giveaway right from the beginning that the family is too jolly, too kinda wealthy, & too off-puttingly ‘perfect’ and that the 2 boys come by and start acting weird from the first second of their appearance. Aren’t they asking to borrow an egg or some stupid shit like that? And they don’t act or dress or move like human beings. They aren’t mega-acting; they’re reading lines in the speech equivalent of Dutch angles. This was my tip-off that this wasn’t a movie movie; it was an experiment, an equation penciled onto a filmic piece of graph paper, a 2 hour Rorschach test in development.

    And the “thriller” moments & gun violence scenes are poorly filmed, awkwardly acted, & unsatisfying by any genre standard, so that’s more evidence that either Haneke is a shitty filmmaker or is not trying to make anything resembling a competent genre film.

    If you think of it as a real, traditional type of film, then you’re left comparing the 2 criminal boys to, say, the famous A CLOCKWORK ORANGE Droogs, and that immediately reduces FUNNY GAMES to shitty movie status because Haneke’s bad boy characters do nothing to earn that comparison except wear weirdly formal outfits & find a creepy way to invade an innocent family’s home. We have no reason to care about those assholes, no baseline understanding of where they’re coming from, no pre-invasion pre-golf clubbing explanation for their motivations or existence. So, by that logic, either
    A) they’re incredibly shallow, poorly filmed characters or
    B) they are more symbols/ciphers/filters/catalysts for a sociological-psychological-cinematical experiment and not characters at all.

    Most people choose to believe the latter (option B), but they allow themselves to be pissed off by the cognitive dissonance of dealing with the former (option A).

    Anyway, I don’t think Haneke says jackshit about “the genre” or “torture porn” or “This is what you want in your violent movies, you American dogs” or anything like that. I choose to see the house invasion & detainment & tying up & self-defense & broken eggs & the absence of public safety officers as the main points of interest, the half-literal bits that drive the symbolic gestalt of the equation. Not that this stuff makes it a good movie on any level.

    If I don’t give a fuck about these 2 creepy assholes showing up out of nowhere to invade this house, then why would I give a fuck about watching Naomi Watts shed tears or why her marriage is troubled and why would I give a fuck about what Haneke might be saying about viewing habits & conventions of a genre that I don’t think he’s participating in or skewering? (And, in turn, why would I now give a fuck about what he might have to say about “amour” or old people wanting to die? Does he have any expertise or something new to say in this matter? Or am I going to care about his film’s characters for once?) He didn’t give me any reason to care about the characters, so either he is terrible at conveying the importance & empathy of characters or he’s not trying to make me care about them. Thus, I choose to care about other stuff.

    Same thing goes for CACHE — Haneke deliberately withholds & obscures (or hides, per the film’s title) so much information, info that presumably would help us understand the characters, families, settings, & societies explored in that movie, to the point that we are left to believe he doesn’t want us to give a shit about those characters, families, etc..

    I feel more empathy/sympathy for the skinny-dipping murder victim we get to “know” for just a few seconds in the beginning of JAWS than I feel for the victimized family we get to know for the 2-hour duration (including important ending credits shot) of CACHE.

    Again, either this is because Haneke is terrible at developing characters or because that’s not his interest, not his film’s point. Thus, all that’s left is the sociological-psychological prompt, the math equation, the dry mystery — What would you do in this situation? What numerator belongs on top of that denominator? What’s the value of x? Did I, Michael Haneke, trick you into almost enjoying or feeling some emotion while finding x?

    A lot of people, understandably, don’t find this mode of film viewership/participation enjoyable or useful.

  65. CJ Holden – what the hell exactly is KOKOWAAH?

    Sorry for the random question, but Bradley Cooper is remaking that “German hit film” and I just wanted your take (if any)?

  66. RRA, it’s one of the many shitty, but unbelievable successful movies, that Til Schweiger wrote, directed and starred in. If I rememebr right, in this one he tries to bond with his little daughter after a divorce and KOKOWÄÄH is how she pronounces the French dish “Cop au vin”, which also seems to play a big role in it.

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