Ona Lu Yenke

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Code Unknown Review


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Austrian bad boy filmmaker Michael Haneke follows up his nihilistic home invasion psychodrama Funny Games with the elusive Code Unknown. Frustrating and seemingly disconnected, Haneke's crafted one of those strange films that, at the time of viewing, inspires reactions ranging from outrage ("What a waste of my time!") to bafflement ("What's the point?"). It's certainly cold, observing an ensemble of characters tied together overtly and incongruously through the opening sequence of street violence.

Following a clearly telegraphed prologue in a classroom for the deaf where no one can figure out what a little girl is miming (theme: miscommunication), Haneke details within a single, unbroken shot four characters -- a young man, his brother's girlfriend, a homeless woman, an angry black schoolteacher -- whose paths cross on a busy Paris street corner. The young man, Jean (Alexandre Hamidi) tosses a crumpled bag into the lap of the homeless woman (Luminita Gheorghiu), a motiveless crime springing from his own insouciance. The black teacher (Ona Lu Yenke) demands the youth apologize, using physical force to make his point. The police break it up, taking the black man away in handcuffs. Race, class, righteousness, and passive observance collide, and each party involved carries the moral baggage.

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