Magazine article Newsweek

A Rottweiler, Now in English

Magazine article Newsweek

A Rottweiler, Now in English

Article excerpt

Byline: David Ansen

A remake proves that 'Funny Games' is ugly in any language.

Michael Haneke's "Funny Games" is a scene-by-scene, almost shot-by-shot, remake, in English, of his 1997 Austrian film of the same title. Both versions are impossible to forget--and, for many viewers, both will be impossible to forgive. All Haneke movies are meant to disturb, as anyone who saw the unnerving, enigmatic "Cache," or dared to watch Isabelle Huppert mutilate herself in "The Piano Teacher," can readily attest. The prodigiously unpleasant "Funny Games" is clearly the work of a technical master, a filmmaker capable of manipulating our fears with expert, Teutonic precision. But I'm hard pressed to think of another movie by a director I admired that pissed me off the way "Funny Games" did when I first saw it at the Cannes Film Festival 11 years ago. I wanted to wring Haneke's neck--a reaction he no doubt would have taken as a sign of his movie's success.

"Funny Games" is a postmodern variation on William Wyler's once famous 1955 movie "The Desperate Hours," in which a middle-class suburban family is held hostage and brutalized by a gang of escaped convicts led by Humphrey Bogart (Michael Cimino remade it in 1990 with Mickey Rourke). In Haneke's excruciatingly intense new Hollywood version, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth play a cultured, tasteful bourgeois couple who arrive at their lakeside vacation home with their adorable son (Devon Gearhart) and frisky golden retriever in tow--the latter an ill-fated canine dangerously named Lucky. The family's terrorizers are two blond, boyish young men (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet) dressed in tennis whites and sinister white gloves; they'd make fine poster boys for a Nazi Youth rally in 1938.

The horror starts quietly with a request to borrow some eggs. The eggs get broken, followed by Tim Roth's leg, as he is walloped with his own Calloway golf club. …

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