Wednesday, April 12, 2006

#8 (Film in Review 2005)

In true Ali fashion, thrown sloppily together in between classes at the university library:

As usual, I must provide some personal background for Michael Haneke's shocking, unsettling "thriller". Caché (#8) was a remarkable experience in that it did not appreciate in my mind after a second or third viewing, but the days and weeks following my only screening. Walking out of the cinema hall in January, I felt fairly disappointed in the much-acclaimed film, cheated by the advance buzz (which started last year at Cannes, where the film picked up the Best Director prize). It was technically proficient for sure, and very watchable, but it was a case of artful smoke-and-mirrors for me. It felt empty, devoid of a necessary pay-off that I felt I needed to have proper closure. But an interesting thing happened - the film began to haunt me afterwards (what I realized that the lack of an explicit culmination was very much intentional on Haneke's part). The themes about surveillance, intimidation and guilt began to unpack themselves in my mind, making me realize that the film was actually much more intricate than I initially gave it credit for. The underlying political dimensions went completely over my head, and while I realize that they are an integral element of the film, they are not absolutely necessary to understand while watching. There is no one key to unlock the film's secret; Haneke purposefully skips over scenes of resolution or explanation that would pander to us. What is unique about the piece is that is completely subverts the usual conventions of this genre, and this is what threw me off initially. Haneke is extremely deliberate in his approach, testing the viewer's patience for longshots that seem to go on verbatim. The purpose is to lull the audience member into a state of ease, and then punctuate that stillness with disturbing implications. It may begin leisurely, but by the end it is impossible to feel aware or agreeable as the closing credits begin to roll. I have said nothing of the excellent performances by Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Annie Girardot and Maurice Benichou, with feature not a hint of artifice. But make no mistake, this is very much Haneke's film; a deceptively simple exercise that will have the viewer question what can be regarded as fact and who can be trusted in the technologically-advanced world in which we live. By teasing with what he reveals and what he chooses to veil as "Hidden", Caché evolves from psychological thriller to a dissertation on the complexities of severe mind-fucking.

6 comments:

JavierAG said...

Oh, this is fascinating. The way movies can grow on you long after they're over. When I saw Troell's "The Emigrants", I was like, "sure OK this is rambling". I only saw it once, that time, and it's now among my twenty or thirty favorite films EVER. That's the sign of master filmmaking if there ever was one. It stings, and then it takes you over.

Nick M. said...

As I've said before, it's the best film from 2005 about white guilt and a history of violence.

Kamikaze Camel said...

It's out here in May! So... umm... yay

Nick Davis said...

I liked Caché, but I'm still waiting to have that mental flowering where I start to really love it. That said, The Piano Teacher and Time of the Wolf both increased in their holds over me as time went on, so it wouldn't be the first time for Haneke.

I'm really enjoying these tributes!

Ali said...

Javier - I must say that initially, I had no idea what film you were talking about. Then after some research, I realized - That Liv Ullman film? Which earned her the first of two Oscar nods? I need to see this immediately!

Nick M. - Hmmm, the latter part of that statement seems to be worded very carefully. Trying to tell me something?

Glenn - Yay indeed. Make sure you see it!

Nick D. - I was surprised how quick my turnaround was for Caché, considering it took me a couple of tries to fully appreciate The Piano Teacher (I'm dying to see Time of the Wolf). Thanks for the comments!

Am said...

Oooh man... great film. I was a little pissed off with the lack of revelation. But I love movies that make me think. I needed closure as soon as the movie ended.

SPOILER
After thinking about it, I felt the 2 kids were the ones committing the surveilance. Especially after that last scene where the credits role which was brilliant.

I can see why a lot of people hate this movie. It's stunning how many innuendos exist in this movie. I will need to see it again and ponder some more.

Ali, we'll have to talk about this.