Wednesday, January 30, 2013
THE LONG GOODBYE
You don't go to a Michael Haneke film for comfort and joy. His is a chilly, clear-eyed worldview of human nature and consequences that turns an apparent genre thriller like Cache into a study of moral imperatives, or a historical drama like The White Ribbon into a haunted horror movie of deep-seated psychoses. As usual, Haneke's excellent new film, Amour, is not for the faint-hearted; it may look like a domestic drama about a long-married couple rattling around their tiny Paris apartment, but it packs a wallop as Haneke confronts his most ferocious and devastating themes to date—the inevitability of aging, and the nature of commitment.
Two icons of French cinema, 82-year-old Jean-Louis Trintignant and 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, fearlessly act their age in a pair of mesmerizing, award-worthy performances. You rarely see people their age in movies at all these days, let alone as lead characters in a film with such a freighted title as "Amour." And true to form, Haneke doesn't fritter away their talents in some faux-inspirational tale about finding courage and dignity in old age. Rather, he portrays the end of life—much like the rest of life—as a minefield of choices, in which the struggle to understand and define oneself continues right up to the last breath.
Old age is not for sissies, as the joke goes, and neither is this movie. But while it's not exactly upbeat, it strikes a resonant chord of humanity that is both fascinating and rewarding; it's not always easy to watch but it is never less than honest. And the lovely exit Haneke orchestrates for his characters after all their trials is a fitting finale to this brave, affecting film. (Read more in this week's Good Times)