Friday, December 23, 2005

Caché - Movie Review

Caché 2005

Zut Alors! Quel film! C’est magnifique, n’est-ce pas? Ah, the French. When they’re not busy rioting or setting fashion trends, they produce some spectacular films. And Michael Haneke’s latest is no exception. Copping the Best Director accolade and two special Jury prizes this year at the Cannes Film Festival, “Caché” has been labeled in the blandest American fashion – "a thriller." It is. To a point. But as with most European films, the labels are merely surface deep and what truly lies beneath is the real show.

Starring those talented Gallic thespians, Daniel Auteuil and Oscar winning Juliette Binoche – “Caché” soars as a searing family drama and cinematic examination of the lies we tell and the nasty habit they have of catching up to us. This film works on so many levels; it is a true joy to behold. To some people. The audience we saw it with left the show completely befuddled. What happened? Who did it? Why wasn’t there a boring, insulting explanatory finale a la “The Sixth Sense”? Because it wasn’t an American film. Simply put. Now, don’t get your Galliano petticoats in an uproar. Obviously there exist some intelligent films helmed by Yankees. A few. Okay, two. Anyway, if every film had to explain the dénouement as if we were all two year olds, films would be geared only towards prepubescents with time to kill. And not to say that the majority of current films aren’t. But isn’t it a joyous thing when a movie attempts more and succeeds? Of course it is. Get the fuck over it.

French directors’ obsession with the thriller and their near worship of masters like Hitchcock are legendary. Would that most American directors could muster the energy to tell a good thriller with such panache as Michael Haneke. Perhaps best known stateside for his steamy “La Pianiste” and his post apocalyptic “Le Temps du loup”, he has a brilliant eye for the minute and the precise moment when to hold back or reveal crucial secrets to the plot. We were suckered in by the first languorous shot of the outside of the Laurent household, which housed a seemingly successful and peaceful couple and their twelve year old child.

From the first scene, we are aware that someone has been watching their domicile for less than benevolent reasons. Soon, mysterious packages begin arriving at their doorstep with the clear intent to unnerve the famille. To what extent the messages are jokestery or malicious, is the real key to this thriller. We are not fond of revealing plot points that ruin a good flick, so we will not even attempt a clever ruse to explain the proceedings. Suffice to say that the English language title is perfectly in tune with the drama. “Hidden.” Enough said. Oh, alright – you might want to brush up on your French / Algerian history. But, that’s it!! NO MORE CLUES!!!

Juliette Binoche has been the darling of international films for several years – working with some of the best directors across the continents. While she is undoubtedly gorgeous, her acting chops have always been her secret weapon. From Jean-Luc Godard’s “Hail Mary”, André Téchiné’s “Rendez-vous”, Philip Kaufman’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, Louis Malle’s “Damage, to the late great Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Trois Couleurs” trilogy – she has shown herself capable of a wide range of characterizations. Her work here in “Caché” is not only of equal caliber, it may perhaps exceed her earlier work. Her confrontation scene in the hands of a less capable actress could have been dangerously shrill – she soars thru the scene and the film with a power and depth that is harrowing.

Daniel Auteuil has earned a reputation as one of France’s greatest actors with inspiring work in such fare as: Claude Berri’s “Jean de Florette” and “Manon of the Spring”, “Un Coeur en hiver”, “Ma saison préférée”, “Le Huitième jour” and “La fille sur le pont.” He has the enviable ability to project charm, intelligence and complexity. An ability that is put to excellent use as the pater familias at the center of the mystery who is too proud for his own good.

The supporting cast is uniformly fine, with Maurice Bénichou turning in a heartbreaking performance as the father’s down on his luck childhood friend. Lester Makedonsky as the seemingly rebellious twelve year old son. And one of the doyennes of French cinema, that old warhorse and former sex bomb, Annie Girardot doing a particularly fine turn as Daniel Auteuil’s bedridden mother. She is glorious.

The old gal’s still got it! (Although she might help deflate one particular rumor going round if she doesn’t lay off the Mille Feuilles!)

Please, do yourselves a favor and go see one of the best films of the year, with some terrific performances, moments of intense drama and quite the shocker or two. Just don’t expect to be treated like a moron, so don’t come complaining to us that you “didn’t get it” when it’s all said and done. Give it a try. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the ride. Bless you all!

Written & Directed by Michael Haneke

Daniel Auteuil as Georges Laurent
Juliette Binoche as Anne Laurent
Maurice Bénichou as Majid
Annie Girardot as La mère de Georges
Lester Makedonsky as Pierrot Laurent
Walid Afkir as Le fils de Majid

Cinematography by Christian Berger
Film Editing by Michael Hudecek & Nadine Muse
Production Design by Emmanuel de Chauvigny & Christoph Kanter
Costume Design by Lisy Christl