Two Michael Haneke Films – Caché (2005) & La pianiste (2001)

It was Cache that I had been wanting to come across for a long time. I used to project this film at an old twin cinema I used to work at. It was the job in which I learnt how to project. It was the best job I ever had. I had since gotten two projection jobs since that cinema. That was 2006. It’s now 2011 and I’m watching this on a terrible out of date DVD screener of the film. Alas, cinema projection on 35mm will eventually see its end, and here is a film about video’s shot on high definition.

I never noticed when I projected the film but it did raise my eyebrows. I remember staring through the port-glass window and I just couldn’t place my finger on what was wrong with the image – the exact image one has been used to over the last 21 years (that was how old I was at the time). Sure, one could see the print film, but you couldn’t disguise the flat, sterile, screened video presented behind that image. Now finally watching the complete movie one can see Haneke is a master of his craft. You could call it filmmaking, probably wouldn’t call it storytelling, maybe commentry, or maybe a strange twisted philosophy on society. I’m not one to comment because I was startled by the film and could not draw my eyes away.

There are comments made about this perplexing piece as a puzzle – clues hidden throughout the piece – but I wouldn’t buy into them. Michael Haneke obviously has a strong background in France. I’m not sure where in Germany he comes from but they are neighbours. I know that he studied philosophy and I do believe he has very strong ideas to present. This film, after seeing others of his (Benny’s Video was my first, followed directly in a double feature with Funny Games, then years later I purchased Time of the Wolf on DVD, finally watching The White Ribbon in its Australian premiere season at the German Film Festival). This is by far his most accessible of those and I found it his most puzzling, interesting and somewhat thrilling. He is in almost a genre mode in this film and isn’t holding up any barriers. However, he is smartly hiding them within the narrative, and rather then forcing them upon you, asks you to seek them out this time. Relaxing of him? Maybe on this outing, and a little cynical. I am no expert on his work but I took the time to seek out another of his works right away the next day.

The Piano Teacher is a completely different type of gem. It’s based on a novel and delves into the perverse and the idea of love. It’s another one of his French language pictures. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival as well as Best Actress and Best Actor awards (the Son’s Room won the Palme D’or). It’s a little too old for me to remember what the release was like at that time. From memory I can remember only decent releases for Hidden and The White Ribbon of his films in recent years in Australia.

From experience all of his films have touched on completely different subjects as if he wants to make his particular statement only once and let the medium of cinema carry that message on so why repeat oneself. The words violence, media and Michael Haneke seem to find themselves in similar sentences and paragraphs although from what I’ve seen (apart from Funny Games and maybe thats due to the press and attraction these two particular films have garnered). The more Haneke films I see, and I do intend to get through a couple more in my lifetime, I seem completely surprised by what unfolds throughout each one (apart from Time of the Wolf). The Piano Teacher was about repression, it was about culture, but I don’t necessary think it was about violence as so much as love and passion. Maybe if his films are all about violence in some way then I could see sexual repression and passionate violence as a link. Still, a wonderful film about violence and justice is still The White Ribbon, and that film did win the Palme D’or (Isabelle Huppert was the Jury President).

I would just like to add the performances in this film. Isabelle Huppert is amazing in this film. I don’t know why I see films and can relate characters to people. It makes no sense and there is no cultural link at all. In fact, I don’t think there is any link apart from my own warped view of the world and cinema and its my wishful thinking to bring the two worlds clashing together. Besides that point, she is thrilling and attractive to watch – attractive in the sense that she physically has always been alluring in not your classical traditional way except that she radiates. The other mention of course is Benoît Magimel who I have only seen in one other film, The Girl Cut In Two. I believe he did this film first and is spectacular in it. The only thing is The Girl Cut In Two could almost be a sequel to this. Not really, but he has transcended roles, somehow, maybe its a class thing.

Anyways, I don’t want to present standard reviews about performances and cinematography. I would like to voice my thoughts on the current state of cinema. If I were to quote Godard I would say that cinema is dead. If I were to quote Langois, I would say the cinema lives on though screenings. Since I saw both of these films on DVD I wouldn’t have much of a chance here in Sydney to see them on the big screen. Culturally I believe these films firmly belong in France. Cinematically I believe these films belong in the theatre’s of the world, especially here in Australia, where they should be praised, discussed with delicacy and never thrown out with labels and buzz words either damning or categorising them. They are intelligent pictures with something delicate to say. Watch them with patience.

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About the anonymous projectionist

just wasting time watching movies, reading movies, staring at lenses and playing around with movie cameras
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