‘Amour,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


Michael Haneke has always been a little too bloodless as a filmmaker, for my taste.

There is a distance – and a coldness – to his work, an almost clinical feel, like a scientist tracking the path of rats through a maze. He creates uncomfortable situations and lets them explode and resolve, without any sense that he feels personally involved in the material.

But with his already award-winning “Amour” (opening in limited release Wednesday, 12/19/12), he seems to have found a subject and a pair of actors who are wholly resistant to Haneke’s aesthetic, without obviously fighting him. Or perhaps it’s that the end of life – with all of the memories, anguish and sorrow that entails – is a subject from which even the clinical Haneke can’t distance himself.

The film is actually quite simple. After a bracketing prologue which foreshadows the conclusion, we get the main story: George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are an elderly married couple. They are both retired music teachers, elderly but active, both seemingly in their early 80s.

One morning, something happens: Anne stops talking mid-sentence at the breakfast table, staring stonily into space as though suddenly turned into a statue. George at first thinks she’s joking, then becomes concerned – until, after several minutes, she suddenly snaps out of it as though nothing had happened. She has no clue what she’s just done.

It’s all downhill from there – and yet, downhill implies increasing momentum and speed. Instead, it’s a slow-motion disintegration, as George watches his beloved wife lose more and more of her most basic motor skills. She simply is in decline, a machine whose parts are wearing out and shutting down. It happens, in some way, to all of us.

This review continues on my website.

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