Amour

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Re: Amour

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun May 20, 2012 2:03 pm

The 'M' word.

Love
20 May, 2012 | By Jonathan Romney
Screendaily


Dir/scr: Michael Haneke. France-Germany-Austria. 2012. 127mins


Old age remains the great taboo of cinema, with only a very few films daring to tackle the topic seriously ‹ among them, some true classics such as Tokyo Story and Make Way For Tomorrow. Love (Amour) is a more than worthy addition. As one expects from Michael Haneke, it is a sober, rigorous piece, and a magnificent collaboration with two veteran actors, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant. It is true to say the pair give the performances of a lifetime, in that no other roles could possibly require them so directly to work with their own mortality and physical fragility. They rise formidably to the challenge.

Haneke¹s absolute control makes the film intensely involving and quietly moving, rather than harrowing. Even so, getting audiences to see it will depend very much on Haneke¹s auteur prestige, and on the presence of Isabelle Huppert, here in very much a back-up capacity. But viewers will get an intensely rewarding masterpiece about a topic that ultimately concerns everyone.

Haneke begins with a forceful and unsettling prelude that tells us how the story will end, but that also wrongfoots us, since the tone of what follows is much gentler. The main characters, as ever in Haneke¹s films, are named George (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva). They are elderly musicians first seen attending a concert by pianist Alexandre Tharaud, who appears later apparently playing himself as Anne¹s former pupil.

Returning home, the couple find there has been an attempted break-in at their flat ‹ one of those small disturbances that carry powerful repercussions in Haneke¹s world. The next morning, Anne goes into a trance over breakfast - a quietly troubling scene that Haneke brilliantly hang on the seeming distraction of a tap left running. This is the start of her physical and mental decline, a passage Haneke sketches elliptically an effectively in a series of episodes. First, it is mentioned casually that Anne has had an unsuccessful operation. Then she is seen in a wheelchair, andsoon we realise she is paralysed on the right side of her body.

Much of what happens is not dramatised directly, but Haneke pulls no punches in depicting Anne¹s condition: increased immobility, dementia, incontinence and so on. Throughout, it is clear the couple¹s long-standing love is unshakeable, but the final stakes of that devotion are revealed in a powerful outcome, brilliantly handled by Trintignant.

More than in any of his other films, Haneke¹s theatrical background is visible in the measured, controlled staging - in that, rather than dramatise the couple¹s experience, he shows it to us, for this is a hyper-lucid demonstration of his theme. But this is also a magnificently directed actors’ film in which the two leads are challenged to confront their own mortality and follow its implications to the very limit. Riva in particular exposes herself fearlessly, recreating Anne¹s increasing lack of physical control; while Trintignant hints at the inner stresses that wrack George. The two actors create a marvellous sense of complicity and intimacy.

There is no trace of overstatement or sentiment. Huppert, as the couple¹s daughter Eva, lends typically strong support, and the film is shot with superbly understated spatial precision by Darius Khondji. This is a film of delicacy and immense force, and while it may well move you to tears, it is a hugely intelligent drama that tells it like it is about a subject most of us cannot bear to think about, especially on screen. It takes a director like Haneke to make us grateful we did.
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Re: Amour

Postby Big Magilla » Sun May 20, 2012 2:01 pm

The film has been picked up for U.S. distribution by Sony Classics, but doesn't have a U.S. release date yet. However, with no one much excited about the awards potentital of any of the actors in upcoming English language films, this could be the year in which more than one performer in a foreign film actually has a chance at not only being nominated, but of winning. Trintignant and Riva could be dark horses in the lead categroy with Huppert in support.

First, though, let's see if Riva can beat Marion Cottilard for the Best Actress prize at Cannes.
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Re: Amour

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun May 20, 2012 2:00 pm

Amour
By Peter Debruge
Variety.com


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 in which retired music teachers Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) attend the concert of a former pupil, "Amour" takes place entirely within the protective cocoon of their Parisian apartment, where the couple lives comfortably surrounded by books, music and other signs of cultural refinement. From the startling opening shot, Haneke indicates where things are headed, as police break down the door to find Anne's corpse laid out in bed, her head wreathed in flowers, the odor of her passing thick in 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 their fight as a matter of domestic heroism as both characters face the challenges of aging together with varying degrees of patience and nobility. By the time the film reveals the circumstances of Anne's passing, auds have already witnessed the full 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 traditionally associated with youthful passion onscreen, rejecting the context in which Riva used it describe her fleeting affair in 1959's "Hiroshima mon amour" or the sort of lightning-strike crush Trintignant's character experienced in 1969's "My Night at Maud's." While 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 likely to inspire weeping than to set the pulse racing.

Proceeding in that spirit, the two leads strip themselves of their stardom, delivering subtle, unshowy perfs in which every glance conveys both how deeply they care for one another and the mounting pain that Anne's illness brings to their relationship. Even minor disagreements demand immediate apologies, as Trintignant shows admirable, unflagging devotion throughout, while Riva impresses with such quiet nobility at the outset that subsequent obstacles to her mobility and speech seem all the more unfair.

After that first stroke, Anne returns from the hospital, her right side partly paralyzed. Trintignant, who found frailty in 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 him to lift her, and yet, their short, shuffling embrace from her wheelchair to the nearest seat looks almost like a dance. As her condition worsens, Georges is every bit as attentive assisting her with the toilet, food and bed, honoring Anne's wish that she never go back to the hospital.

Though this decision worries their almost-60-year-old daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), Georges has reason to reject her interference. Like the former student (French pianist Alexandre Tharaud) who drops by during his next trip to Paris, Eva expresses concern only after hearing news of Anne's stroke, but is otherwise too busy with her own music career to check in with her parents.

The scenes between Eva and the older couple feel strangely formal, more like job interviews than comfortable family time, especially when compared with the casual intimacy seen between the two leads. Alternating between static shots and simple, intuitive camera moves, Haneke may have established his aesthetic in collaboration with d.p. Christian Berger, but he gains something in working with Darius Khondji (who also shot his "Funny Games" redux). The lighting feels softer, the frame less rigid, inviting auds into a world the helmer has often kept at arm's length.

It was exactly this sort of middle-class existence that drove the family in Haneke's 1989 debut, "The Seventh Continent," to systematically eliminate itself from society via a shocking murder-suicide. In essence, something very similar is happening here, as Georges and Anne retreat from a world that demands he keep her alive, and yet, the unforgiving nihilism of the earlier film has been supplanted by a sense of deep concern. The director has trained auds to expect bursts of sudden, unprovoked violence, giving his followers reason to fear for this gentle couple, or the unwelcome pigeon who intrudes through their open window. And yet Georges' reaction to that wayward bird offers a surprising alternative, along with a possible mellowing of Haneke's usual Austrian austerity.
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Re: Amour

Postby ITALIANO » Sun May 20, 2012 9:13 am

I never contribute to those threads about the greatest living performers who still haven't been nominated for an Oscar. It's a bit pointless, I think - especially in a time when even a Sandra Bullock or a Jennifer Hudson not only get nominated but even win. And, I mean, almost ANY working actor is better than those two. But even if it's just about excellence, there are so many - Gabriele Ferzetti, Marisa Paredes, Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Carmen Maura, etc.

Still, the name that I'd instinctively think of - after the almost too predictable Isabelle Huppert - is Jean Louis Trintignant, with his sensitive French face and eyes, a great, unshowy actor who's done any kind of movie, good, bad, masterpiece, terrible, French, Italian, American even (he was very good in the now forgotten Under Fire)... Italians love him since he came here, very young, and played Eleonora Rossi Drago's teenage lover in Violent Summer, and loved him even more when he came back as Vittorio Gassman's reluctant sidekick in Dino Risi's bitter Il Sorpasso. But, generally speaking, not many actors have been in as many great movies as Trintignant - just think of Z, The Conformist, A Man and a Woman, Passione d'Amore, My Night at Maud's, so many others. Oh, and Red, of course - what a wonderful performance he gave in that one.

On paper, this seems to be one of his greatest roles ever and a potential Oscar nominee - except that it's a Haneke movie, so definitely too dark, too tough for the more sentimental Academy. Too bad. And Emmanuelle Riva, one of the most iconic French actresses ever, is in Amour too - in what seems to be perfect Best Supporting Actress material. But we know that it will be Sandra Bullock again - or, what's her name? That black actress from The Help.

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Amour

Postby Sonic Youth » Sun May 20, 2012 8:24 am

Love: Cannes Review
by Deborah Young
Hollywood Reporter


Magnificent in its simplicity and its relentless honesty about old age, illness and dying, Michael Haneke’s Love (Amour) is a deliberately torturous watch, one that is going to weed the master’s fan club of the lightweights who went along for the ride with the morbid mental puzzle-solving of Hidden and Palm d’Or winner The White Ribbon.

No riddles to figure out here in a script that is utterly linear and unfrilly, but at the same time executed with such clarity that there is never a false step or superfluous scene. Career-high performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva as a genteel Parisian couple in their eighties illuminate the difficult, oft-treated subject matter, but however upscale the trappings it’s hard to imagine this downbeat study can reach the same audiences as Haneke’s recent work.

Accessibility is clearly not the issue, as everything is laid out in plain sight from the bang-on opening scene: the fire brigade breaks down the door of a spacious Paris apartment to find a long-dead old woman lying in bed, her head surrounded by flowers. The rest of the film is a claustrophobic flashback leading up to this moment.

Switch to a classical music concert in which only the audience is seen from the stage in a single elegant, long-held shot. Among them are Anne (Riva) and Georges Laurent (Trintignant), two music aesthetes long into retirement. He hobbles a bit but they seem to be a cheerful, alert and loving pair who treat each other with enormous civility. Coming home that night, he makes an offhand comment about how pretty she looks that expresses all the tenderness of a life-long relationship.

Then Anne has her first stroke, a mild affair mistreated with an operation (evidently at Georges’ insistence) that leaves her half-paralyzed and in a wheelchair. And so begins their terrible ordeal, whose outcome is already known.

Moment by moment, the actors delicately describe Anne’s descent into physical and eventually mental debilitation, while Haneke focuses with physician-like steadiness on the test it puts on Georges’ love for his wife. When he steps out of the apartment to attend a funeral, she tries to jump out the window. She feels humiliated by her condition and hates to be seen, but she can’t refuse the agitated visits of their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert, star of Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, another uncompromising exploration of love.) Huppert negotiates a persuasive middle road, alternating hysteria and a conventional, teary reaction to Mom’s plight with a little chat about investments.

All this serves as a stark contrast with her father’s measured words and behaviour as he tries to keep up Anne’s spirits and preserve her personal dignity. Looking back, the two remember emotional moments from the past, but not the events themselves. After Anne has a second stroke, Georges bows to the need for part-time nurses. The degenerating nature of her illness is very painful to watch, as she gradually loses the power of speech and seems to return to a state of early childhood, inarticulately crying out her pain.

If Georges and Anne find no emotional support from family, there is not the slightest vestige of religious comfort in the household. Society is simple absent, and even the funeral he attends is a ludicrous flop – he describes how everyone giggles at the slowness of the urn being mechanically lowered into the grave. Thus the great dignity of the film’s wrenching final scenes soar high above any kind of moral or ethical debate, which other films have dealt with extensively, and beyond the questions of evil and responsibility that Haneke himself raises elsewhere. This lack of familiar handholds will make the film steep climbing for many viewers, putting them face to face with the nature of love in its most unromantic and weighty moments.

Trintignant and Riva are consummate veterans of French cinema but put aside their baggage of famous films from his And God…Created Woman to her Hiroshima Mon Amour to approach these roles with concentrated freshness, making each moment a deep plunge into a heroic side of themselves. In a special cameo, young classical pianist Alexandre Tharaud (who performs Schubert, Beethoven and other music in the film) appears as Anne’s brilliant pupil, who has become a world-famous recording artist.

With practically all the action taking place in the Laurents’ apartment, production designer Jean-Vincent Puzos positions them in a falsely safe world of refinement filled with tapestries and bookshelves, Persian carpets and a grand piano. Darius Khondji’s rich, warm cinematography echoes the cocoon feeling of a world that time catches up with, just as a stray pigeon wanders behind locked doors from time to time.
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