Michael Haneke has created a beautifully affecting film in his latest offering “Amour.” Already winning the Palme D’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the film is steadily racking up year-end awards and mentions on “Best Lists,'” including Best Foreign Film Award by the National Board of Review and Best Picture nods from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Time Magazine. Last week the film also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film, and will likely receive an Oscar nomination as well.
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges, and Emmanuelle Riva as Anne, “Amour” catches this 80-something couple living in Paris. Georges and Anne are retired music teachers. We spot them for the first time amongst an audience staring up to the stage of famed concert pianist and former student, Alexandre Tharaud (who appears as himself).
Returning home, Georges and Anne discover and discuss burglaries within the building, including their own. Perhaps this is a symbolic foreshadowing of a thief who might steal one’s health? Or maybe it’s just that no one’s safe.
Haneke does a fine job of immersing the audience into Georges and Anne’s domestic conversations utilizing long shots where characters leave frame and later return, with dialog continuing, uninterrupted. It’s apparent that Georges and Anne lead a comfortable life and show a tremendous amount of love, respect, and playfulness between one another.
When Anne has her first attack during breakfast, staring straight ahead into space as if in a trance, Georges rushes from room to room, trying ways to assist his beloved. But when he (and the audience) hear the water being turned off in the kitchen after Georges had left it running, we know Anne has maybe returned to a normal state. And like Georges, we’re almost breathless as we follow him into the kitchen to see if this is true.
It’s an interesting technique that Haneke uses to keep the audience aligned with Georges to draw the viewer into Georges and Anne’s lives, and into Georges’ care of Anne.
“Amour” is an amazingly intimate film of love, life, death and family. Trintignant and Riva are masterful in portraying a couple’s twilight days of life together. Riva especially is so convincing as an ailing wife, that it’s absolutely impossible to imagine that she is acting. (Might it be possible that two French actresses – Riva and Marion Cotillard in “Rust and Bone,” might win Oscar nominations for Best Actress?)
Rounding out the cast is the excellent Isabelle Huppert as their daughter, Eva. Eva, also a musician, arrives periodically at her parents’ with tales of her own distress in marriage and career, and is extremely uneasy with how to deal with an aging parent. Again, Haneke, strikes just the right authentic chord with a self-involved adult child simply at a loss over her parents.
Michael Haneke who has found both international art house success and acclaim with “The White Ribbon” and “Cache,” is sure to find success again as “Amour” opens in Los Angeles and New York, December 19 before expanding to select cities in the following weeks.
By the way, after reading this review, you’re inclination is to say, “I’m not interested in catching a ‘downer’ drama,” then you’d be missing out. “Amour” is a film destined to be a masterwork that will land on many, many more year-end “Best Lists.” And it’s not because it’s one of those artsy dramas; it’s because it’s an amazingly authentic, moving film.
“Amour” is 127 minutes and Rated PG-13.
For other film reviews by Lori Huck, check out:
‘Rust and Bone’ Review: Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts Amaze
AFI FEST 2012: A Strong Showing of Foreign Oscar Contenders