Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Cannes 2012 Official Selection Preview - Amour by Michael Haneke


As the most famous film festival in the world will start next week, a week later than always due to France presidential elections, a new to this blog idea came to my mind: to share my thoughts about each of the films in the Official Competition. Not an easy task as not all movies have trailers but have to admit that most have photos -some truly breathtaking- and many are from well-known to me directors that somehow assure me the quality of their work besides the obvious high quality that have to have to be in Cannes Official Selection.

Is very unusual to find in the Cannes Official Selection so many American movies, 5 in the Main Competition, 3 in Un Certain Regard, 1 in Special Screenings, and 1 in Midnight Screenings, for a total of 10 films in the Official Selection. Probably must a be a first but will check later to confirm. My honest first reaction was not-positive as in a way these films fill a place that could be filled with great non-American films that really need this festival to boost their exposure. But I know that this as any other festival is all about business and when you assure HUGE Hollywood celebrities walking the red carpet, the fest gets wider media exposure. Sigh.

Nevertheless the Official Selection has several of my favorite directors like Mexican Carlos Reygadas, Romanian Cristian Mungiu, Austrian Michael Haneke, and Iranian Abbas Kiarostami; can't deny that already knew about each of their films and was hoping for them to make the selection, so was kind of relief to find that they did. Great.

So without further introductory comments let's get into my first preview.

Amour (Love) by Michael Haneke

Absolutely "dying" to watch this film that reunites Haneke with Isabelle Huppert after 2001 La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher) and 2003 Le Temps du Loup (Time of the Wolf). Not only Haneke is one of my favorite directors but Huppert is one of my favorite actresses, one that makes me watch all her films. So that is the main reason for my true excitement about this film.

Talking about Haneke is talking about a cinema of disturbance that has marked his work since his earlier movies like really disturbing Funny Games or shocking-disturbing La Pianiste, to puzzlingly disturbing Caché (Hidden) and breathtaking yet disturbing The White Ribbon, so I'm assuming that Amour has to have his disturbing style but from the very little info available I'm expecting that disturbance will have a qualificative adjective that has to be his surprise twist in this film, that maybe, only maybe, could be (a bit more) emotional with an unexpected warmth from master filmmaker Haneke.

The available synopsis can't be more intriguing:

Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers.
Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family.
One day, Anne has an attack.
The couple's bond of love is severely tested.

What intrigues me the most is that Huppert plays Eva, a character that's not clearly stated in the synopsis, except for being the daughter; still, it is implied in the most Haneke style that leaves everything to your imagination, that will fly freely especially when you also know the characters that Huppert loves to play.

Also in this movie one of the greatest French actors and one that I have seen almost all his movies, Jean-Louis Trintignant. An older Trintignant with looks that still recall how handsome he was and mostly, how good an actor he was in almost all of his 137 films where is hard for me to say which performance I like best (maybe Costa-Gavras Z?), but can't hide that one of my emotional favorites is in Claude Lelouch's Un homme et une femme (A Man and A Woman). Trintignant in the hands and head of Haneke has to be spectacular.

5/14 update: FINALLY trailer is available here.

What else I'm expecting? Extraordinary images even when Amour cinematographer work does not facilitate me imagining greatness.

Haneke in Cannes

Haneke and Cannes have a tale of successful relationship; he has been nine times before with five films nominated to the Palme d'Or which with the exception of two, all collected mayor awards. The relationship started in 1989 where Haneke was in a parallel section with Der 7 Kontinent (The Seven Continent), in 1992 also in a parallel section was Benny's Video, and in 1994 again in a parallel section, 71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance).

In 1997 Haneke comes back to Cannes with Funny Games that's part of the selection but does not collect awards; three years later, in 2000, Haneke came back with Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages (Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys) starring none other than Juliette Binoche, that won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

The following year, 2001, the Grand Prize of the Jury went to La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher) and four years after in 2005 Haneke won the Best Director for his amazing film Caché (Hidden) also starring Juliette Binoche; the film went to also win the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the FIPRESCI Prize.

In 2009 Haneke comes to Cannes with what I have to call master oeuvre, Das weiße Band - Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte (The White Ribbon) that gave him his first Palme d'Or plus the Cinema Prize of the French National Education System and the FIPRESCI Prize.

Is he going to win his second Palme d'Or with Amour and belong to the small group (only six) of directors that have won the Palme twice? Haneke surely has all the necessary pedigree to be a strong contender and a frontrunner for the top award just because of his history with the festival and his outstanding films. Amour on the positive side has to have Haneke style plus an amazing dramatic cast; on the not so positive side, a cinematographer Darius Khondji that already worked with him in his American Funny Games American remake which may not be the best reference for success. These are the elements that fill my head and tell me that maybe he will get recognition.

Haneke is Haneke

At least for me. So no matter if he does fine or not at Cannes his film is absolutely must be seen for me and yes, I do have high expectations which I know is not the best to do, but with the casting and his master filmmaker style film has to be more than worth watching.

Last here is an insightful quote from his book Film als Katharsis (Film as Catharsis)

"My films are intended as polemical statements against the American ‘barrel down’ cinema and its dis-empowerment of the spectator. They are an appeal for a cinema of insistent questions instead of false (because too quick) answers, for clarifying distance in place of violating closeness, for provocation and dialogue instead of consumption and consensus."

Absolutely great vision, one that many filmmakers should have or at least, contemplate once in a while, then cinema will be true art where we film-viewers have the power to get from film what we like the most and the second time we watch with a different state of mind, we will be able to see something else. A vision that I'm still hoping will be the essence of Amour.

The only Amour photo available up to today.

New photo

Film Specs
Directed by Michael Haneke
Written by Michael Haneke
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Tritignant, Emmanuelle Riva, William Shimell
Language: French
Also known as: Liebe
Release date: October 24, 2012 in France
Nationality: Majority French (France, Germany, Austria)
Runtime: 2h 7m
Production year: 2011
North American rights: Sony Pictures Classics

End Notes
Amour at Cannes site go here.
Haneke in Cannes go here.
Films du Losange go here.
X Filme Creative Pool go here.
Unifrance go here.

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