Magazine article Variety

A Poignant Five-Haneke Pic

Magazine article Variety

A Poignant Five-Haneke Pic

Article excerpt




Director: Michael Haneke; Cast. Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert

Michael Haneke 's most intimate film in nearly a quarter-century, "Amour" relates the tragic final months in a relationship with at least six decades' worth of history, as a concerned French husband cares for his increasingly irritable wife in the wake of two debilitating strokes. Considering Haneke's confrontational past, this poignantly acted, uncommonly tender two-hander makes a doubly powerful statement about man's capacity for dignity and sensitivity when confronted with the inevitable cruelty of nature. Acquired by Sony Pictures Classics before Cannes, this autumnal heart-breaker should serve arthouse-goers well - not for first dates, but for those who've long since lost count.

With the exception of a single early scene Ui which retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (EmmanueUe Riva) attend the concert of a former pupU, "Amour" takes place entirely within the protective cocoon of theU Parisian apartment, where the couple Uves comfortably surrounded by books, music and other signs of cultural refinement. From the startling opening shot, Haneke indicates where things are headed, as pouce break down the door to find Anne's corpse laid out Ui bed, her head wreathed Ui flowers, the odor of her passing thick Ui the air.

Did she commit suicide? Did her husband ease her out of her suffering? Though society may view either option as criminal, the film views theU fight as a matter of domestic heroism as both characters face the chaUenges of aging together with varying degrees of patience and nobUity. By the time the funi reveals the cUcumstances of Anne's passing, auds have already witnessed the fuU trajectory of her deterioration, none of it more painful than that first attack, over morning tea, when a momentary lapse of recognition interrupts the pleasantly attentive dynamic between two soul mates.

By titling his film "Amour," Haneke rebels against the way "love" is traditionaUy associated with youthful passion onscreen, rejecting the context Ut which Riva used it describe her fleeting affair Ui 1959's "Hiroshima mon amour" or the sort of UghtnUigstrike crush Trintignant's character experienced Ui 1969's "My Night at Maud's." WhUe such films depict the inferno of obsession, here, at the other end of both actors' careers, love is a concept for adults, not pop songs, more Ukely to UispUe weeping than to set the pulse racing.

ProceedUig in that spirit, the two leads strip themselves of then stardom, deUvering subtle perfs in which every glance conveys both how deeply they care for one another and the mounting pam that Anne's illness brings to theU relationship. Even minor disagreements demand immediate apologies, as Trintignant shows admirable, unflagging devotion throughout, while Riva impresses with such qiuet nobUity at the outset that subsequent obstacles to her mobUity and speech seem aU the more unfaU.

After that first stroke, Anne returns from the hospital, her right side partly paralyzed. Trintignant, who found fraUty Ui seemingly tough characters for most of his career, does the opposite here: Georges may be weakened by age, but his commitment to Anne is so strong, he puts aside his discomfort to assist her. It's not easy for hUn to lift her, and yet, then short, shuffling embrace from her wheelchaU to the nearest seat looks almost like a dance. …

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