Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 5/19/08 w/ Additional Edits.

Michael Haneke is one of the most controversial yet provocative directors from Europe. The Austrian filmmaker often touches on subjects ranging from death, the fallacy of humanity, and often in a bleak tone. After debuting with 1989's Der Siebente Kontinent, Haneke would create films including 1997's Funny Games (that was recently remade shot-by-shot for a 2007 version by Haneke himself), 2001's La Pianiste, and 2002's Le Temps du Loup that often shown harrowing outlooks on violence, sexuality, and anarchy. In 2005, Haneke returned with a film where he experimented with high-definition video cameras while exploring the fragility of humanity in the film entitled Cache` (Hidden).

Written and directed by Michael Haneke, Cache` is the story of a TV host, his book publisher wife, and son who learn they're being videotaped as their lives are changed. An exploration into voyeurism and secrecy, the film studies the world of a family who seems close and happy only to be undone by the secrets that surround them as their being filmed by outsiders. Starring Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Maurice Benichou, Annie Girardot, Lester Makedonsky, and Nathalie Richard. Cache` is a haunting, provocative masterpiece by Michael Haneke and company.

TV host Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) and his book publisher wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) live a nice, quiet life in Paris with their 12-year old son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). Then one day, Georges and Anne learn that they're being watched as they receive numerous videotapes of them being filmed in front of their house. At first, everything seems harmless until drawings featuring a face with blood dripping from its mouth. The tapes and drawings begin to appear more in Georges' office and at a dinner party with friends as Anne considers calling the police. With the tapes emerging more and more. Georges begins to have disturbing flashbacks of a young Algerian boy named Majid (Malik Nait Djoudi). Georges decides to visit his mother (Anne Giradot) as they talk about what's going on with him as they lead into a conversation about Majid, whom he had forgotten about after all these years.

Upon his return, another tape has arrived where it revealed a road and then a door. Georges suddenly becomes convinced that the person sending the tape is Majid (Maurice Benichou) but doesn't tell Anne who wants to know. Georges' lack of openness causes a rift as Georges decides to go to the apartment door he sees and learns it's Majid. Majid denies everything about what Georges is saying about videotapes as Georges is unsure whether to believe him or not. A tape of their conversation is shown where she talks to her friend Pierre (Daniel Duval) about what's happening. Then one day, Pierrot doesn’t return home from school as Anne and Georges become worried as he reports to the police where Majid and his son (Walid Afkir) had been arrested.

When Pierrot returns home revealing he spent the night at a friend's house, the close relationship between mother and son is becoming fractured. When Majid and his son are freed, Majid calls George for a meeting that becomes troubling. In its aftermath, Georges reveals to Anne what had happened many years ago as he later has a confrontation with Majid's son as he tries to figure out what has been going on.

The film is essentially about voyeurism. Take an image and you'll see something for what it is. Yet, when you look much closer, there are things that you never see. Michael Haneke is an auteur who is willing to challenge any audience into what they see. The film's first shot is instilled in everyone's mind as people just see the image of a house with the opening credits being typed in. Plus, it makes the audience aware that they're behind the camera watching all of this. With the exception of a close-up shot of the Laurents walking out in the front, that first image is still there and then suddenly, the audience is aware that they're watching a video tape.

The film's voyeuristic tone with a script that moves very deep into dark secrets doesn't stop, even after the film ends. While Haneke's script is more about characters and the sins that delve into their situations. It's Haneke's eerie direction that is mesmerizing where he keeps the audience guessing whether they're seeing a flashback or a videotape. Haneke allows the audience to bring a perspective and interpretation of what they're seeing. Yet, it doesn't stop, even in the film's last scene where it brings an openness to the ending. Credit is given to Haneke for creating a film that eerie and engrossing where it's all about an image or a scene as he reveals a close-knit family being fractured by the secrets and lies that surround them.

While the film's pacing might feel a bit slow for some, the fact that Haneke's direction really sucks the audience into believing in what they see. It should be also noted that the film has no music score. That's because it adds a level of suspense to the film as if it's being played in real life as the audience are sucked in into this world. It also reveals into why Haneke is one of cinema's finest auteurs. That's because Haneke is willing to confront the audience with the darkest truths while leaving things open right to the end.

Cinematographer Christian Berger brings a soothing yet intimate quality to the film's camera work where everything feels a bit claustrophobic from the first to last shot. With exteriors shot wonderfully, it's the interior scenes at the home of the Laurents that are really intriguing with very little light that conveys the film's eerie tone. The editing by Michael Hudecek and Nadine Muse is truly superb in how it maintains its eerie, elliptical pacing while acting like a video tape that shows true power to the skill of editing. Hudecek and Muse's editing is really powerful in playing to the film's suspense while knowing when not to cut or to keep the film moving without resorting to fast-cut techniques.

Production designers Emmanuel de Chauvigny and Christoph Kanter do a wonderful job in showing the contrasting world of the bourgeoisie world that the Laurents live in to the home that Majid lives in providing some tension into the film's characters. The costume design by Lisy Christl is excellent in creating that same tension in the contrast of class and culture as it emphasizes the idea of those characters. Sound editor Jean-Pierre Laforce and mixer Jean-Paul Mugel help create a unique sound that plays up to that difference of the Laurents world and the Algerian Majid as well as their own surroundings in Paris.

The casting of Kris Portier de Bellair is amazing for its choice in casting with young actors Malik Nait Djoudi as the young Majid and Hugo Flamigni as the young Georges. Other small roles including Nathalie Richard as Anne's friend Mathilde, Daniel Duval as Pierre, Bernard le Coq as Georges’ boss, and Dioucounda Korna as a cyclist Georges confronts.

Walid Afkir is good as Majid's son who confronts Georges after an arrest trying to claim he didn't do anything as he plays mind games with Georges. Lester Makedonsky is also good as Pierrot, the Laurents' son who is dealing with growing up while becoming convinced his mother is having an affair fueling his growing angst. Anne Giradot, who also starred in Haneke's La Pianiste, is excellent as Georges' mother who talks about Majid and how she cared for the boy that leads to one of the film's key plot-points.

Maurice Benichou is powerful in his role as Majid, a weary man who is caught by surprise in the appearance of Georges as he denies the idea of him taping. Whether he did it or not, the fact that is that here's a man, nearly destroyed by a lie being forced to be confronted by someone in his past. Benichou's understated performance is truly powerful in playing someone who might or might not be the villain. Juliette Binoche is great in her role as Anne Laurent, a woman whose own family life is falling apart as her husband is not being open and her son becoming more evasive as she tries to deal with everything that's happening to her. Binoche's subtle yet touching performance is amazing to watch as a woman being caught in a horrible web of lies as she is just trying to deal with everything thrown at her.

Daniel Auteuil is brilliant in his role as Georges Laurent, a man who seems to have everything only to be haunted by a video and the man who might be filming them. Auteuil's subtle yet haunting performance shows a man who is trying to hold himself together yet his body language will reveal something else. Auteuil's performance is very mesmerizing as he tries to figure out what's going on only to reveal that he might be at fault while denying his actions at the same time. It's that complexity in his performance that makes his character sympathetic but also a bit evil at the same time because of his actions.

The film premiered at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival where it was the frontrunner for the Palme d'Or. Yet at the ceremony, it lost the Dardenne Brothers' L'Enfant while Michael Haneke did win the Best Director prize. When it was released in the U.S. in late 2005 and early 2006 for a shot at an Oscar nomination, it didn't receive a nomination though did get a lot of critical attention as well as being seen by art house audiences. While several critics did praise the film, others hated it for its lack of resolution.

Cache` is a harrowing, provocative, and eerie film from Michael Haneke that includes brilliant performances from Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. Fans of Haneke will no doubt consider this film one of his best while those new to the director after discovering his recent shot-by-shot remake of Funny Games should check out this film. While it's the kind of film mainstream audiences might not enjoy for its lack of resolution and action, those who like suspense films and art-house/foreign films will no doubt consider this a true masterpiece. In the end, Cache` is a powerful and engrossing film from Michael Haneke.

Michael Haneke Films: (The Seventh Continent) - (Benny's Video) - (71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance) - Funny Games (1997) - Code Unknown - The Piano Teacher - (Time of the Wolf) - Funny Games (2007 film) - The White Ribbon - Amour - Happy End

© thevoid99 2011

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