Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning gems like Hidden, Amour and The White Ribbon. So this French film may be as close as he'll get to making a comedy. Indeed, it's a witty exploration of family and societal dysfunction that sometimes borders on farcical. But it's also a story about people grappling with suicidal and murderous urges. And the wry performances of its superb cast make it jarringly unforgettable.
It's set in Calais, where Anne (Isabelle Huppert) runs the family construction business and lives with her forgetful father Georges (Jean-Louis Trintingnant), her doctor brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz and his shy wife Anais (Laura Verlinden). But Anne's slacker son Pierre (Franz Rogowski) is struggling in his role as company manager, especially in the wake of an accident on one of their building sites. And Thomas now needs to care for his 13-year-old daughter Eve (Fantine Harduin) from a previous marriage. Meanwhile, dark thoughts are swirling, as Eve is posting death-obsessed videos on social media, and George is planning a startling suicide attempt.
These are all complex, layered people who are so consumed by their own issues that they often fail to notice what's happening with the people around them. And this echoes the film's larger themes about the wealthy residents in this area who are trying to ignore the surging population of desperate immigrants amongst them. Haneke orchestrates all of this in his usual dryly involving way, but this time adds a playfulness amid the disturbing interaction. Huppert is particularly good at injecting a sardonic wit beneath Anne's glacial expressions. This is a woman who won't let anyone see how annoyed she is, weathering the bigger storm to proceed with both a company merger and her own engagement to her lawyer (Toby Jones).
Continue reading: Happy End Review
Michael Haneke’s Amour was something of an outsider’s choice until this year’s Oscars nominations were announced. The movie has been nominated for Best Picture, Directing (Haneke), Foreign Language Film, Writing (Original Screenplay) and Actress in a Leading Role, for Emmanuelle Riva, who – at the age of 85 – is the oldest woman to have been nominated in the category and faces competition from Quvenzhané Wallis, the youngest, at the age of nine.
The movie tells the tale of an octogenarian couple – both retired music teachers and of Georges’ (Jean-Louis Trintignant) struggle to care for Anne as her body begins to falter and shut down after a series of strokes. The trailer only gives a glimpse into the story; a sense of a family troubled, but no questions are answered. There is as much silence as there is speech in the trailer; a poignant moment as Anne sits at the piano, a beautiful piece of music plays in the background, yet, as the camera pans over to Georges, he reaches behind him and switches the music off; Anne is no longer capable of playing the piano as she once could. The role of the couple’s exasperated daughter, Eva, is played by Isabelle Huppert.
Amour, in addition to its clutch of Oscar nominations (many are hailing Amour as this year’s The Artist), the movie also won the highly coveted Palme D’Or prize at last year’s Cannes film festival.
Continue reading: New Trailer For Five Times Oscar-Nominated Amour (Video)
Anne and Georges are a devoted, elderly couple who both used to be music teachers. One day, Anne has a stroke which leaves her partially paralysed and unable to look after herself. Georges, being old and not up to strength himself, does his best to take care of her but is placed under considerable strain given the amount of attention she needs and the fact that she isn't always compliant with him. However, he maintains his promise to her that he will not send her to a nursing home to be cared for. Their daughter Eva lives abroad and also has a career in music but tries to convince her father to let someone else care for her despite his promise. Just how far will this couple's love take them, and will their partnership survive?
Since its release in November 2012, this powerfully moving French drama has garnered much praise with five Oscar nominations and four BAFTA nominations. Director and writer Michael Haneke ('The White Ribbon', 'The Piano Teacher') also won the Palme d'Or award on its release at the Cannes Film Festival but, most recently, the movie bagged the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Golden Globes in January 2013.
Director: Michael Haneke
Continue: Amour Trailer
A range of intelligent blockbusters, inventive foreign films and beautifully crafted storytelling made 2012 a good year at the cinema...
Ang Lee's clever, thoughtful adaptation of Yann Martel's acclaimed novel is an unexpected work of art. It's also one of the richest, most challenging, most visually spectacular movies we've ever seen.
Starring: Suraj Sharma & Irrfan Khan
Read the review of Life Of Pi Here!
2. Rust & Bone
French filmmaker Jacques Audiard follows up his amazing prison drama A Prophet with this startlingly edgy, tough-minded romance about two deeply wounded people who find each other.
Starring: Marion Cotillard & Matthias Schoenaerts.
Read the review of Rust And Bone Here!
Continue reading: The Ten Best Films Of 2012
By Rich Cline
A striking look at a long-term relationship, this film is an antidote to those who are tired of shamelessly sweet depictions of retirees, such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel or Hope Springs. Meanwhile, it's perhaps the most emotionally resonant film yet from Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke, who specialises in crisp explorations of the darker side of humanity (see The White Ribbon or Cache). By contrast, this Cannes-winner is a clear-eyed drama about ageing that completely avoids manipulation and schmaltz, but is still deeply moving.
The story takes place largely in one apartment in Paris, where Georges and Anne (Trintignant and Riva) are enjoying their golden years. Then one night, after attending a concert by one of Anne's former piano students, she has a small seizure that's just the first step in a slide into partial paralysis. Georges is happy to care for her, and they still have moments of happiness. Even when their daughter (Huppert) barges in and tries to meddle with their decisions about the future. As Anne's condition deteriorates, Georges gets help from his neighbours (Agirre and Blanco) and a nurse (Franck). But he never feels that taking care of Anne is a burden.
Unsurprisingly, Haneke tells this story without even a hint of sentimentality. Even though the premise lends itself to big emotions, he keeps everything quietly authentic. The flat itself almost becomes a character in the story, with each outsider's arrival as a kind of invasion. Scenes are captured in his usual long, unbroken takes with no background music to tell us how to feel. Instead, we experience the situations along with Georges, and we understand why he takes such a practical approach, refusing to overdramatise even the most emotive events.
Continue reading: Amour Review
"Il ya quelqu'un?", 'Is anyone there?' are the first words spoken on the trailer for Michael Haneke's Palme D'Or winning film, 'Amour'. These are the words that haunt the entire film, in which an ageing musician, Anne, has a series of catastrophic strokes which render her incapable of playing the piano, and is swiftly followed by the onset of dementia. Her husband, Georges, in fear and faith, does his best to care for her, as their love and their lives are tested.
Haneke is best known for brutal films, ones where women slice their genetalia (The Piano Teacher), or the murder of an entire family. While these films are physically violent, and haunting, Amour is both violent and haunting in an entirely different way, the Telegraph even described it as a 'horror' which in many ways it truly is. 'Amour' is an exploration of old age, love and the inevitability of mortality. Due to the strokes and dementia, Georges loses Anne, the woman he has devoted his life to, we see him experience grief, bereavement and bewilderment while she's still alive- hence the question that hangs over the whole film: 'Is anyone there?'. We see Anne struggle to come to terms with her own illness. The breathtaking performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are human in all ways that we are human. Both bodily and emotionally they both, with Haneke, force the audience into seeing ourselves and our futures as immensely fallible and terrifying, but with such tenderness as to make us fall in love with the film itself.
The Telegraph praised Riva and Trintignant particularly, "At the close of their long careers, stretched and tested, these actors are heroically brave, subtle - and heartbreaking." And, the Guardian gave it a rare full five star review and described it as "a moving, terrifying and uncompromising drama of extraordinary intimacy and intelligence." Amour is released in the UK on November 16th.
Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Michael Haneke and Cannes Film Festival - Emmanuelle Riva, Susanne Haneke, Michael Haneke, Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant Sunday 20th May 2012 'Amour' premiere during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival
By Chris Cabin
Hemorrhaging lost masterpieces as if it were a newly uncovered bounty of Nazi gold, the 1960s go one more with Alain Cavalier's magnificent Le Combat Dans L'île, literally translated as "The Combat on the Island." Loosed from the distribution impound lot, it comes not long after the rediscovery of Godard's sublime and spontaneous Made in USA and the globe-trotting opus Army of Shadows; films made by two directors to which Cavalier's film was meant to serve as a blithe rebuke.Produced by friend and mentor Louis Malle, Cavalier's metamorphosing tale of obsession and repression was originally met with middling reviews in l'hexagon upon its release in 1962. Surrounded by the "dirty war" in Algeria, Cavalier and co-scripter Jean-Paul Rappeneau set out to condemn not only what the government sold as "maintaining the order in a province," despite broad support for the war.
Continue reading: Le Combat Dans L'île Review
When one thinks of political assassinations, a couple of guys driving by a raconteur standing amidst a crowd then hitting him over the head with a pipe before driving away doesn't exactly leap to mind.And yet Costa-Gravas had the presence of mind to turn the tepid story of thinly-veiled police corruption in 1963 Greece into Z, and somehow the world bought into it.
Continue reading: Z Review
By Chris Cabin
Bernardo Bertolucci has always been one of the scant few directors to actually understand the art of eroticism. There's an irrepressible elegance in the way he films women and the way they look when they're just existing or preparing for a tryst with a lover. His early films have a way of stressing those flippant eyebrows and coy smiles over the quick glimpse of the nipple or (god forbid) full breasts. The lilting gasps and moans of lovers preparing and engaging in their blissfulness is a nervy symphony for his acutely shot images. Even now, 36 years after his best film and three years after his amicable The Dreamers, Bertolucci's films seem to careen with seduction in ways that no other filmmaker can possibly recreate. Though best known for Last Tango in Paris, The Conformist still holds as Bertolucci's most provocative work and a classic of Italian New Wave.Marcello (the great Jean-Louis Trintignant) has a common yearning in his life, though he puts it much more bluntly than others would. Marcello wants to be normal. Normal as in Fascist, normal as in wife, children and government job, and, finally, normal in that he represses and attempts to forget all his dark dreams and past deeds. The charge from his hushed organization is to assassinate his old philosophy professor (Enzo Tarascio) in France while on a fake honeymoon with his "petty" wife, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli, playing the part with a marvelous mixture of oblivious commitment and hollowed sexiness). While on assignment, he flirts and sneaks to hidden corners with the Anna (Dominique Sanda), the professor's volatile, anti-Fascist wife, and attempts to keep his agency contact (Gastone Moschin) happy.
Continue reading: The Conformist Review
Roger Vadim, who showed a remarkable lack of self-restraint in films like Barbarella and Don Juan (or If Don Juan Were a Woman), was far more muted in his jazz-infused updating of Dangerous Liaisons, set in then-modern-day Paris but keeping the guts of the story nearly intact.In Vadim's rendition, Valmont (Gérard Philipe) is married to Juliette de Merteuil (Jeanne Moreau), and together they get their kicks by preying on the weaknesses of other high-society types. Juliette sets her sights on Cecile (Jeanne Valérie), soon to be married to someone who has crossed her in the past, and sets Vamont onto turning the innocent (but naive and manipulatable) girl into a sexpot-in-training. Meanwhile, Valmont falls in love with the genuinely virtuous Marianne (Annette Vadim), and a love-quadrangle soons spins out of control.
Continue reading: Les Liaisons Dangereuses Review