Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Amour / Love (2012)

Rakkaus / Amour [Swedish title]. FR/DE/AT © 2012 Les Films du Losange / X Verleih AG / Westdeutscher Rundfunk / France 3 Cinéma / ARD Degeto / Bayerischer Rundfunk / Westdeutscher Rundfunk. P: Margaret Menegoz, Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Michael Katz. D+SC: Michael Haneke. DP: Darius Khondji - film editing: LISTO Videofilm - lab: Digimage Cinema - digital cinema supervisor: Tommaso Vergallo - grading: Didier Le Fouest, Willi Willinger. PD: Jean-Vincent Puzos. Cost: Catherine Leterrier. Makeup: Thi Loan Nguyen. Hair: Frédéric Souquet. M (no score music): - Schubert: Impromptu op 90 no 1 - Schubert: Impromptu op 90 no 3 - Beethoven: Bagatelle op 126 no 2 - J.S. Bach / Ferruccio Busoni: Prélude Choral "Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ" -- perf. on the piano by Alexandre Tharaud - rec. Ircam Centre Pompidou. S: Guillaume Sciama, Jean-Pierre Laforce. ED: Monika Willi, Nadine Muse. C: Jean-Louis Trintignant (Georges), Emmanuelle Riva (Anne) - avec la participation de Isabelle Huppert (Eva). - Supporting C: Alexandre Tharaud (Alexandre), William Shimell (Geoff), Ramón Agirre (le concierge), Rita Blanco (la concierge), Carole Franck, Dinara Droukarova (les infirmières). Loc: Paris. Released by Future Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Janne Kauppila / Saga Wickström. 4K DCP screened at 2K at Andorra, Helsinki, 8 Jan 2013 (preview).

Technical specs from the IMDb: - Camera: Arri Alexa, Cooke S4 and 5/i Lenses - Laboratory: Digimage Cinéma, Paris, France, LISTO Videofilm, Vienna, Austria - Film negative format: ARRIRAW - Cinematographic process: ARRIRAW (source format), Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (spherical), D-Cinema - Aspect ratio: 1.85 : 1.

Official synopsis: "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."

Amour is one of the finest films of recent years, and I would recommend it even to those who hardly ever visit the cinema.

In many of his films Michael Haneke has studied the eruption of violence in a dysfunctional family. He has also studied how violence in social power structures is reflected in a nuclear family. He has taken seriously the trivialization of violence in entertainment fiction. He has also made a case study of sadism and masochism among refined artists in high musical culture.

Amour is a new departure for Haneke. It is a love story of an octuagearian couple, one of them facing mortal illness. There is a tenderness new to Haneke's films. There is a violent act, but violence and cruelty are not among the main themes. Death and love are. Death is the ultimate test of love like in the Song of Songs:

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame

The casting is eloquent with two great stars of la Nouvelle Vague who had their international breakthroughs over 50 years ago. Jean-Louis Trintignant had his breakthrough in Et le Dieu... créa la femme, with Brigitte Bardot.

Emmanuelle Riva's breakthrough took place in Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour as the woman whose first love affair has been with a German soldier during the Occupation and who meets a Japanese architect in Hiroshima. The horrors of Nazism and nuclear destruction are reflected in their intimate affair.

Memories of such characteristic roles in movies that have been in wide circulation for decades add a special depth to the performances, but Haneke is not surfing on past reputations. Instead he focuses on entirely new dimensions of his stars. The youth and the glamour are gone. The bodies are decaying, but the spirit remains. But then even the spirit starts to disappear...

Visually, Amour is a warm, luminous and tender work of art. Amour has been shot digitally unlike Haneke's previous films (including Das weisse Band and Funny Games), but previous films by Haneke have been processed via digital intermediates that have given them a digital look even when the negatives have been photochemical.

Amour has been painted with light, and Darius Khondji's work is refined. I do not find cause to complain about the digital quality. To be sure, Amour has been shot almost entirely in interiors, and the few exteriors are of an urban, built space. The composition is for the big screen. Amour will lose a lot if viewed on a small screen.

Memorable features: - Anne is not herself; in the next moment, she is herself again. - Little gestures that betray that there is something wrong. - Eva is venturing into a Nordic tour, including Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival "near the Polar Circle". - The close-ups and interiors are beautiful and intimate. - Even the long takes and the long shots are intensive and charged with feeling. - Amour belongs to the current cycle of films (Nader and Simin: A Separation, Rust and Bone, The Intouchables) with an almost documentary passion in depicting the treatment of a serious medical condition (loss of memory, paralysis, amputation). - The naturalistic aspects of growing old are neither avoided nor exaggerated. There is a sober balance in the presentation. - Georges becomes Anne's caregiver in her final months. Details such as the introduction of the hospital bed at home, the wheelchair, the necessity of diapers, the physiotherapeutic exercises, walking exercises, speech exercises, song exercises, feeding and washing (especially washing the hair) are important. Also greasing to avoid bedsore. - Georges reports about the terrible funeral of their mutual friend Pierre. - Anne and Georges have been music teachers, and their gifted pupil Alexandre Tharaud pays respects to them. "It was a sad and beautiful moment." - The nightmare sequence is good and Buñuelian: real and matter-of-fact (the doorbell is ringing, there is nobody there, the floor is flooding, a hand emerges from behind). - "British humour can be taken only in little doses". - The photo album montage: images of childhood. - Le Monde. - Questions of pride, dignity, and identity while regressing to "the second childhood". - Eva is puzzled: "isn't the burden too great". Georges has little patience with her. Anne is in agony when she sees Eva. - George has visions of the true spirit of Anne as she used to be while the physical Anne is fading away, repeating the word "mal, mal, mal". - The unsuccessful nurse who offers a mirror to Anne and lets the pigeon fly in. The ugly scene between Georges and the nurse who is fired. - "You die if you don't drink". - The montage of the paintings that fill the screen. - The final solution: the devastated, exhausted Georges smothers Anne and apparently commits suicide. - The final images are of Eva visiting the now empty apartment. - There is no score music written for Amour. Instead, there are four beautiful piano pieces (Schubert, Beethoven, Bach) played by Alexandre Tharaud.

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