A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

Emmanuelle Riva in Amour
Georges: Jean-Louis Trintignant
Anne: Emmanuelle Riva
Eva: Isabelle Huppert
Alexandre: Alexandre Tharaud
Geoff: William Shimell
Concierge: Rita Blanco
Concierge's Husband: Ramón Agirre

Director: Michael Haneke
Screenplay: Michael Haneke
Cinematography: Darius Khondji

As someone who knows what it's like to care for a disabled spouse, I commend writer-director Michael Haneke for getting so much right in Amour. Not that accuracy is of the essence in the film: Amour is not a documentary, it's a fiction, and as such needs a shape that lies beyond the depiction of the mundane pains and frustrations of the characters. And that way lie the pitfalls of sentimentality and melodrama, which Haneke mostly avoids, thanks in very large part to the brilliance of his actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, and Isabelle Huppert. Are there American actors, or even British ones, who could have performed these roles with commensurate skill, drawn from the depths of experience? Trintignant and Riva are Georges and Anne, retired piano teachers whom we first see at the triumphant performance by one of her former pupils, Alexandre (the real pianist Alexandre Tharaud). Shortly afterward, Anne suffers a mild stroke and submits to surgery to eliminate an arterial blockage, but the surgery leaves her paralyzed on the right side. Georges is able to cope with his caregiving duties, though Anne is increasingly distressed by her disability and by the burden it places on her husband. At one point she tells him that she wants to die. Another stroke then leaves her mostly speechless and virtually helpless, forcing Georges to hire part-time nursing help. Their daughter, Eva (Huppert), has her own life to live, and urges Georges to put Anne in institutional care, which he resists because of Anne's previously expressed wish to die in their home, not in a hospital. Unfortunately, despite inspired performances and mostly sensitive direction, the climax and the conclusion of Amour ring a little false, perhaps because the fictional construct demands a somewhat artificial closure to a film that has felt genuine up to that point. Amour received Oscar nominations for best picture, for Riva's performance, and for Haneke's direction and screenplay, and it won the best foreign-language film award.

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