Saturday, February 23, 2013


This is an unusual movie to be nominated for an Academy Award. It's in French, the stars are "senior" citizens, i.e. old, it's a slow paced contemplation of the deterioration and degradation of the physical, as well as mental, that sometimes, too often, goes along with aging and the inevitable end of aging.

But it is also brilliant in its way. Mainly for the incredibly courageous performance of its female lead Emmanuelle Riva, a once ravishing model (in both senses) of a European movie star beginning in the 1950s with HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR and continuing for a lifetime. I really want to see Jennifer Lawrence win the Oscar for SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK because as someone who as acted in and written for movies, from my perspective she saves that movie with the incredible realism she brings to the role and forces on the bigger stars DiNiro and Bradley Cooper.

In AMOUR, Emmanuelle Riva is matched and supported by the male lead, Jean-Louis Trintigant, another actor whose career began in movies in the 1950s and was marked by worldwide success in such films as A MAN AND A WOMAN, but who now is also very old for a contemporary movie, let alone a leading man role. But he too is magnificent, although it is Riva whose performance is uniquely brave as well as bravely unique.

Isabelle Huppert, who also was a ravishing young movie star at one point, my first crush on her was in GOING PLACES in 1974, where I also first discovered the movie acting brilliance of Gerard Depardieu for the first time. But Huppert is only "middle aged" and plays a supporting role as the daughter of Riva's and Trintignant's characters.

The film was written and directed by Michael Haneke, the Austrian director known for his often bleak and always uncompromising films, the first to gain wide notoriety being THE PIANO TEACHER. AMOUR is probably his gentlest movie in its scenes of domestic harmony and aging lifelong love, but it is also uncompromising in its portrayal of aging's challenges and cruelty.

I can't imagine much of an "American" audience for this flick, its slow pace and long scenes with only one fixed camera angle in many is almost like a rebuke to most "American" movies, but if you can surrender to its rhythms and framing and confined spaces and limited exposition, not to mention the artlessness of its artistry, you may well leave the theater feeling you not only know these people very well but have just returned from their Paris apartment.

I went to see it for the acting, because I don't generally like Haneke's movies, but I left impressed with his accomplishment and the reality that no one else until AMOUR had dared to address this subject so intimately and realistically. I also left envying the film couple's long relationship, their lives and their apartment.

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