Outstreched arm

Friday, February 17, 2006

Suffer the art

I don't think I've ever been in a theater as quiet as Tampa Theatre tonight during the second half of Michael Haneke's Caché. It's a slow, slow movie with barely a whiff of action anywhere in the theoretically tense plot. It's loaded with virtually still images, so static that when the camera softly dollies, it's a Hitchcockian moment. Yet the audience sits quietly and stares, just as unmoving.

It's difficult to describe what goes on in Caché without spoiling it. It's also difficult to describe how exactly I feel after seeing it, and for the same reason. It's difficult to say why it's difficult. In a crowd less accustomed to artsy pieces, there would be riots, so filled with difficulty is the film. If you wish to be entertained, look elsewhere, See, it's even difficult to recommend this thing.

It's probably the best movie of last year, and certainly the best-directed one.

Let me attempt a summary. A French yuppie couple starts receiving video tapes of their home: still, sickly harmless surveilance videos. The search for a meaning of the bizarre prank leads the husband to remember a childhood event, and revenge soon becomes the most obvious explanation. Clues are deciphered, tension is built, confrontations take place - yet to describe Caché as some sort of nail-biting thriller would be sadly disingenuous. This is not Phone Booth, or Panic Room, or Cape Fear. It's as genre-defying (genre-denying, perhaps) as Hitchcock's Birds or Antonioni's Blow-Up. Things that take place are, on the surface, mostly the stuff of pop culture, but the overall effect is decidedly more cinema than movies.

Having seen Caché three times now, I'm very much haunted by it. It's deep, challenging, original, rich, and all those nice things art teachers make googly eyes at.

Speaking of teachers - I promptly got a copy of Haneke's earlier Cannes success, The Piano Teacher. All the online reviews talked of a repressed woman indulging in sexual fantasies. Cool. Boy, is it ever difficult to do justice to what really happens in this guy's pictures.

Both Caché and The Piano Teacher deserve lengthy, careful analyses. I don't feel I'm up to that, so instead I will voice an opinion and a concern: I think both are fantastic movies, directed in a hypnotically minimalist, tangential style I didn't think too many filmmakers were fond of anymore. The Piano Teacher's script is a bit more problematic than Caché's - maybe I need to see it again, but some reactions seemed emotionally implausible - but both are like nothing you've seen before.

That said, listen carefully. I don't know what sort of rating The Piano Teacher carries, but take it very, very seriously. This is coming from a liberal, twenty-something dude. Both movies contain extremely disturbing scenes, but The Piano Teacher is about experiences that we go through in our daily lives (i.e. sex). If you're going to see it, be prepared, and I advise you to see it alone. No date, no partner, no kids. No friends, ideally - the natural reaction in a group will be to laugh (there's nothing else to do). The movie will make you feel uncomfortable enough if you watch it solitarily.

Enjoy. Or, uh, think.

There are 1 Comments:

Anonymous louise said...

i saw the piano teacher at the cinema. it was certainly an uncomfortable experience, one woman was crying and left towards the end.

I didn't really know what to expect from it. I'd read some of Jelinek's books before but not that one. I read it afterwards,it's good, although in some ways I actually prefer the film.

4:01 PM  

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