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 It’s now 2011 and I’m watching this on a terrible out of date DVD screener of the film.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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Pictures I’ve seen over the last week

I never got to mention the Women on the Sixth Floor, or Special Treatment, which I saw at the end of the French Film Festival which is what we had here in Sydney a couple of weeks ago. However, these treasures are what I got to see the week past.

The only one I saw at the cinema was Never Let Me Go. It was a wonderful film and I’m glad I got a chance to see it. I was never a fan of One Hour Photo but this film is on another level. The performances in this subtle science fiction drama are one for the books. It’s no wonder Andrew Garfield made it to Hollywood to star in one of the best films of last year – The Social Network – when you can see his perfomances in this and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasses. His body of work is looking stronger and stronger his each role.

The Lives of Others was a great film and Silent Light was slow and unfortunately the beautiful images, compositions, camera movements portraying the gentle story of adultered desires couldn’t keep me from however I was feeling that morning – which was tired – a small problem with the medium of home viewing. Its a shame I couldn’t have the patience of the home viewing experience of Carlos Reygadas’ work – perhaps I was too comfortable.

The outstanding film that affects me above all previously mentioned was Chaotic Ana. Right up until the very ending I thought it was an incredibly intelligent how it totally immerses you in the character of Ana. Its really amazing how the film manages to capture the essence of who she is and what she is going through. Then you realise the director has made the film for his sister and in fact all the artwork in the film is hers. It just solidifies it as a masterful piece about a one woman’s soul and idolises her – creating the model of pain all good people go through.

Chaotic Ana (2007) directed by Julio Medem
Silent Light (2007) directed by Carlos ReygadasNever Let Me Go (2010) directed by Mark RomanekThe Lives of Others (2006) directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

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L’appartement (1996) starring Bellucci, Cassel and Bohringer

I couldn’t find a better picture to resemble the dissecting, weaving, wretched plotline of this romantic thriller, but alas, there it is. The first thing that attracted me to this film was that it was an early film of Monica Bellucci and Vincent Cassel’s. The director was unknown to me but this film was one of those highly-regarded films of the mid-nineties, a time when I was just a boy, and I was amused by cinema, but would have never sought out a film like this – I was in primary school.

So, years later, I’m given the opportunity to watch it by a friend. At first it seems a pretty standard thriller or romance, still not quite unshedding its light upon you for the first time. It looks glossy, like there is a haze over the lens that softens everything to make this film feel like it’s a dream, a beautiful, non-chalant dream filled with romanticism. As it unfolds, switching between two time periods, almost all the characters (there are three vital ones and one submissive one) are playing two different characters – now and then. To be honest, the film portrays all this so melodramatically that after the first forty-five minutes, you are hooked.

It’s been compared to Hitchcock, but I would not go so far, the haunting and heightened strings that play on the soundtrack resemble many films from the American fifties, the ideas and values are on another level too, never grounded in reality but set in the world onscreen – where characters behave the way we do – but are so full of life and intensity, of power and relevance, that sitting in the theatre we are merely watching to enjoy the sights before us – from that, we can take from it whatever we like. The characters are so attractive that we can replace them with anyone we know in the real world and play Barbie and Ken for Sandra and Derrick. It’s transformation, it’s translucent characters on screen, and we can represent them as ourselves.

The production never goes out of its way to pretend life is bigger then what it is. What is pleasant is that the story primarily takes place only in apartments, cafes and phonebooths. It’s a sincere film that lends itself to you. There are no fancy camera moves that are there to puzzle you although the film itself is a puzzle. It’s almost as if this film portrays what the theatre would become too complex with. It’s portrays complexity simply with a camera, and also allows time and space to travel the way a play could not.

There are some people who despise films that disguise themselves with complexity, damning the writer – claiming they chose the answer and wrote the script with questions to finally unfold everything neatly at the end – others enjoy the ride. I can’t comment on this in regards to this film. Many people make that comment about a whodunnit or murder mystery which this film is not. It’s purely a love story and the ideas and themes prevail over any sort of web of intrigue surrounding the story.

The film is dramatic, but tastefully done, it’s thrilling and sensational and its about love.  You don’t quite know where the film is going in the first ten minutes, but you gather its complex, and as it switches to the past things only become more enticing. The past and present in our minds is a complex thought. How can you untangle the complex thoughts that go through our minds when you think of someone you really love?

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Tournée (2010) directed by Mathieu Almaric

Tournée is one of those wonderfully-crafted masterpieces that isn’t a masterpiece. A masterpiece is a word to describe a million different colours, themes and brushstrokes, or chemicals combined to create an image of insignificant brilliance. I don’t know why people should use such a word other then to describe something that could take hours to discuss in a few syllables.

I had been a fan of Almaric since seeing him in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) and had seen him in other movies such that many westerners would know him from. I liked him in the Mesrine film. Many of the other pictures that he has worked on I have not had the pleasure of seeing but will always make an effort since seeing this film he directs and stars in.

Tournée is a road movie. This one takes the shape of a troupe of travelling burlesque performers – all picked individually and gathered into a group by the troupe’s French manager – Mathieu Almaric starring as Joachim Zand. The performers are all Americans, picked by Zand as he was travelling through the US, and brought to his home country to entertain the country in various venues and clubs. Simply its a rock and roll band on tour, the girls drink and party, it’s their show and they’ll perform it the way they want to, and Zand is there to manage.

There are plenty of delightful moments in this road movie and the road in this movie serves the purpose for all of us, the characters and the audience, can share this experience together. We’re all there to serve a common purpose, to get the show done, and everything that goes into that is here on show – all the relationships, the performances, the girls, the management, the audiences – they all gel together, or fall apart right before your eyes like a fly on the wall documentary, except that its not.

The Americans, in this French film, who are the stars of the show are the stars of this picture. The heart of the show, and also of this picture is Joachim Zand, the manager. As the film goes on, and as the show reaches its final audience in Paris I found this character increasingly mesmerising, and I don’t want to forget to mention the American Miranda Colclasure starring as the burlesque performer Mimi Le Meaux.

This film is filled with stunning performances bringing these characters to life and is full of heart with blood that pulses with a beat that runs through your veins filling the film with life and adventure. It’s because of this that it is a joy to endure, the performances are vivid, and the texture is raw. It beats to life with a study of the human character and successfully breathes the breathless emotions of the living character.

Five out of Five!

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Noise (2007) Commit to Memory – directed by Matthew Saville

It was the best Australian film of 2007. When a film comes out that enthrals you the way Noise does, it’s a bonus that it came from Australia. Modern Australian cinema could be described in some circumstances as “honest” and “heartbreaking”. The Australian hit of the year was “Romulus, My Father”. Other films that come to mind of recent years are “Beautiful Kate”, “Last Ride”, “Australia” and “Disgrace”. Films that stick outside the norm will always be more successful then the more common. Noise is an original premise, therefore the ground the filmmakers are stepping on is foreign territory. That’s what makes this film a success, and should be a hit, and when it is not, it will become a cult.

Australian cinema needs to be cherished when it is worth it and should not be when it isn’t. If you look at a recent Australian film “Wasted on the Young” you will see that it gets a great marketing campaign yet the film was empty. What was original was that it was a genre film, like “Noise” and others such as “Animal Kingdom” and “The Square”. Wasted on the Young is a teen thriller. It may not be a very good one, but it was different from others, and that is why it got a decent marketing campaign. I do believe that bad films will always exist and that, in fact, they will be more successful than the good ones.

Films like Noise pass under the rader, or get the old “I really want to see that movie,” and yet it gets lost beneath it all. Henri Langois of the Cinematheque Francais fought for the idea that a film lives on through the cinema. The only way for a film to become recognised is through screening it. If a film like Wasted on the Young gets a similar release on video and continues its moderate success where does this lead Australian cinema. Another similar film was “Samson & Delilah” which had a marketing campaign (a pretty horrible one) but was greeted by audiences. If Noise was given the same marketing campaign would it be as successful a film?

The thing with marketing campaign’s is they can make or break a movie. The worst type are the dishonest ones that completely lead the audience into the wrong direction. “Catfish” did this and so did “Samson & Delilah”. Both these film were successes so you could say that the success of a marketing campaign is purely unpredictable. That’s why people get on board after successes like Samson & Delilah and start trying to change incentives and you get films like Wasted on the Young – in my opinion could have been a much better film than it was – which do not fully develop their scripts. Noise on the other hand is a purely well-thought out mystery thriller right up until the climax.

Matthew Saville is to become one of Australia’s leading directors. His career has been in television and this at the moment is his only feature credit. Many directors follow this path such as Don Siegel and Stephen Frears who move on to become great artists of the medium. Other directors such as Luis Bunuel and Jean Renoir strictly only work with cinema; or other thrive from the theatre – Mike Leigh. It’s obvious we’ll be seeing Saville’s career head towards that of television and we will have to anticipate his next film outing (which may be years away). By this stage, we should see a much more crafted director with an optimal and refined way of working with the actor’s performance.

Here, Saville has crafted a compelling drama with a noir-like narrative. It follows a police officer who is handicapped with tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears). After a dizzy spell renders him unconscious whilst on duty he finds himself working the lonely midnight shift in a temporary police caravan which has been placed near the location of a recent murder for surveillance. It’s an interesting and riveting locale setting you up for a creepy, intriguing, dark tale of mystery.

A striking point of the film is the environment of the film and the characters its filled with. It’s a fairly honest portrayal of mankind in a universal setting. Sure, it’s Melbourne, you can tell by the way the characters speak and you could guess the area I suppose, but it’s not a social commentary on a particular suburb. It’s about the universal human character – characters who seek a lifestyle of change, or of violence, or of redemption. The premise for the film introduces us to an array of characters who are living in this world – which is neither desolate or paradise, but somewhere lying between the two where reality sits. The environment is charming in some ways, and utopian in other ways, and presents how these characters fit universally into it. This is initially what makes the film so accessible.

It’s refreshing to see a narrative that avoids clichés derived from genre, country or . We’re invited to a somewhat genre set in a fictional world of nightmare’s but grounded in reality. The film is a modern classic because it allows you full access to this world, yet safely keeps you in the distance, so as not to bombard you with the dramatic tensions going on in the characters lives. We are invited to taste and flirt with the atrocious circumstances the characters are dealing with (being the target of a crazed psychotic killer, ears ringing with tinnitus) but are not overwhelmed by them. By doing this we are not smashed by the senses, nor are we given total access to the characters, these problems are the characters problem, and the film allows them to deal with them, not the viewer, thus engaging the viewer to the narrative.

I won’t go into any more of the treasures of the cinema presented in Noise but ask you to seek out this classic, yearn for more viewings and discussions with it’s makers, to ask them questions and to force yourself to enjoy the cinema granted before your eyes. It is through watching and seeing that the cinema lives on, and having films that can be seen and watched to be thought-provoking and intended to present something of value we should be thankful that people are making movies like Noise. I think through the right critical praise and encouraging ourselves to applaud filmmakers like Matthew Saville, we ourselves will be treated to more great and grander stories down the line.

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – theatrically details the despicable and the useless

It is tragedy to think why somebody would gamble their whole life, waste it away, once be young and grow old, to loose, and to still think they can end up on top. What would it take to save yourself from that deed? However pathetic it sounds I guess there is something beautiful about the sacrifices people would take to solve a lifetime of pain they have caused.

I think this is a great film because of that. It solves the problems by using the theatrical technique of performance and design, and the cinematic technique of camerawork and lighting that crosses both mediums. I read in a book (by Alexander Mackendrick) that you need to master the craft of narrative before you could master comedy. The director, Terry Gilliam, is a master of this craft.

Sometimes I think of a film’s re-watchability. Another Terry Gilliam film that comes to mind is Twelve Monkeys, (maybe not the best example) only because this particular film, I have re-watched multiple times and it has maintained its enjoyability for me. Doctor Parnassus has the same feeling toward me – upon my second viewing of the film. The film displays a technically brilliant approach to the craft, characters are being brought to life before your very eyes by a means of performance that is theatrical and captured cinematically through creative camerawork that encaptulates the imagination of the narrative.

In this regard I think the film works technically with the story it is presenting in a coherrent manner. I do not know why people found the story confusing (although I do admit this is my second viewing) because the characters and the way they are performed presents  the narrative clearly enough. The special effects, the production, the camerawork, the performances, the sounds effects work in unison to portray the narrative that is otherworldy, and it’s the gelling of all this which makes me think the film is wonderfully successful.

I guess at the end of the day it is a story about whatever you may make of it. Simple stories tend to be the most appreciated and that is why they have been told over and over again. Despite how convoluted things may seem in one’s imagination, there is a clear answer when you sit back and view it all from afar. Doctor Parnassus may be a film that looks complex, due to the complexity that has gone into every shot, but I appeciate the fact that it uses complexity to portray something that is complex – our minds.

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to the people who adore cinema

I have nothing particularly interesting to post on my first post. The reason for this is because I really don’t know what I want to do by writing on cinema. I need to practise writing and I hope that over time my reason for writing will shed its light, as the cinema does when the house light dim.

Initially I will spend a few words discussing my thoughts on the cinema. Cinema, to me, is a world of images, a world of light, a world of sound, a world of montages which allow us to reflect on our own lives through the experience of others. That is what story-telling can do for us.

Cinema is also a business. It’s about entertainment and salability (I’m not sure if that is the right word). It’s about marketing. I do believe much of that marketing is created after a film is completed, however, there is a degree that has its impact on a picture before it has begun which by means has creative influences.

I love cinema. Cinema is my one passion in this world (apart from women) but I do believe that there is a relationship between the two. I am hoping that I will find a point in my life where the two will meet and I will just have everything in the world. It’s at least something to live for, even though it seems ridiculous.

I do hope to bring some writing of interest in this blog. I hope to share with the world some of the movies I have seen and my thoughts. I think I can have a positive impact on the current state of the world and I may as well try by writing.

With that, I expect to see the world around soon!


Anonymous Projectionist


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