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Amour

Director:  Michael Haneke
Year Released:  2012
Rating:  3.5

An elderly couple, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, suffer a major setback when Riva's character has a stroke and Trintignant must care for her - being a private person, she insists on never going to the hospital again and stays locked up in their apartment, with Trintignant allowing few guests to see her (primarily their daughter, played by Isabelle Huppert, her British husband and a former student). What I at first interpreted as another sick joke by Haneke - this is the guy that made Funny Games twice and enjoys meddling with his audience's feelings - is not so much a sick joke as him shoving the audience's face into the inevitability of suffering and dying: it isn't a "joke" per se, but a bully's attempt to force the audience - and, of course, Trintignant's dutiful husband - into watching a woman's physical self erode (when he slaps her, it isn't because he's a jerk, but because he's frustrated and impotent in the face of impending death). I liken it, strangely enough, to the work of Damien Hirst and Andres Serrano, who are all about confronting their viewers with the ghastly inevitability of their own mortality - when Trintignant finally smothers her with a pillow, it actually is an act of love, of not wanting to see his beloved hurt any more. As mixed as I am on Haneke's oeuvre up to this point, I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt on this one - there's something oppressive and obnoxious about his approach to the material, but I do believe he manages to capture the horror of physical decay (and viewing physical decay) with masterful cinematic precision. But like Funny Games, this won't be a movie I'll ever find myself needing to re-watch....

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