Friday, December 28, 2012


If you utter “la mort" slowly and let it slide off your tongue, it sounds like “l'amour.” Try it. Michael Haneke’s film, Amour, currently at Film Forum, plays with this sonority since it’s about the most cherished and dreaded of life processes. The image of Anne (Emannuelle Riva), an ailing concert pianist falling into the arms of her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) as he takes her to the bathroom, is one of love and death. Amour is an autopsy of death and its unsettling intimacy lies in the way it paints the little moments, the intimacies of decline. Stillness is Haneke’s music and most encounters in Amour (as in the director’s previous film, The White Ribbon) lead to some form of set piece. Anne tells him to turn off a CD. Then Haneke frames the couple, her wheelchair in profile against him, and holds the shot. Georges is a storyteller and the vignettes he relates become like signposts— not act I, act II, act III, but stone markers on a trail. Amidst the ghastly and at the same time quotidian goings on, Georges attends a friend’s funeral. Anne wants to hear about it and it’s to the director’s credit that he’s able to pull off a laugh-out-loud funny scene. Apparently George’s friend’s urn is too large for the gurney it’s placed on and the friend’s secretary in a moment of passion decides to play the Beatles’s “Yesterday.” The priest who gives the eulogy turns out to be an utter fool. As George concludes what amounts to a very good standup routine, Anne announces that she doesn’t want to live. The diagnosis of Haneke’s characters is critical and their fate inevitable, but the genius and humanity of the film is that its disquisition is never predictable.

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