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Posts Tagged ‘michael haneke’

Fanzine Harduin, Mathieu Kassovitz

“HAPPY END” My rating: C+

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

It’s got several auteuristic moments and a bevy of solid performances.

But “Happy End” never decides what it’s all about.

At first glance one might assume that this latest effort from director Michael Haneke mostly avoids the extremes of human behavior that mark so many of his titles (“Funny Games,” “The White Ribbon,” “Amour”).   Of course even in a seemingly mundane setting Haneke finds undercurrents of perversion and corruption.

To the extent that “Happy End” has a central character it is 13-year-old Eve (Fanzine Harduin), a dour/stoic kid who in the film’s opening segment makes a cell-phone video of her hamster succumbing to an overdose of Mom’s antidepressants. Hmmm.

Shortly thereafter Eve’s mother dies after a long bout with mental illness and the girl relocates to the mansion occupied by her father, the surgeon Thomas Laurent (Mathieu Kassovitz), his second wife, their newborn son, and other members of the extended Laurent family.

Among these are Eve’s aunt Anne (Isabelle Huppert), who operates the clan’s construction business and is currently occupied with a fatal on-site accident.

Anne’s son Pierre (Franz Rogowski) — Eve’s cousin — is second-in-command and being groomed to take over the business, but it’s pretty obvious he lacks the head or the instincts for the job. He’s depressed.

Jean-Louis Trintignant

Hovering in the background  is wheelchair-bound grandfather Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who may be slipping into dementia and who has his heart set on suicide…though he can’t get anyone to cooperate in his quest for self-destruction.

There’s considerable ugliness percolating beneath the bourgeoise surface of the Laurent clan.  For example, the tech-savvy Eve discovers  that her Papa has been writing explicit erotic emails to a mistress. The girl accepts this with a shrug.  It’s pretty hard to shock her…she oozes the seen-it-all ennui  of a 50-year-old.

And Pierre seems to be totally losing it. He shows up at the wedding of his mother and her English beau (Toby Jones) with a half-dozen African refugees, demanding that they be given a table at the reception.

Haneke’s handling of all this is bleakly comic…but never actually funny.

Making “Happy End” worthwhile is the performance of young Harduin, whose Eve is both compelling and creepy. Whatever genetic sins the family possesses seem to have found their way into her small frame; she radiates a cool pathology that you can’t quite put a name to.  Let’s just say that in some regards “Happy End” bears a resemblance to “The Bad Seed.”

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“AMOUR” My rating: A- (Opening Feb. 8 at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts)

95 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Forty years ago, when I was a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star, I followed a police dispatch call to a seedy midtown transient hotel. The bodies of an elderly couple had been found lying side by side on the bed in their cramped one-room apartment.

The cop in charge said it was either a murder-suicide or a double suicide. He’d been told that in recent weeks the wife had been seriously ill.

Back then I was too shallow and, well, scared to examine the implications of this sad tableau. But Michael Haneke’s “Amour” brought it all back to me.

Haneke is an Austrian auteur who makes seriously disturbing movies.

Movies like “Funny Games” in which a couple of young creeps imprison and torture a vacationing family. Haneke liked that one so much that he later made an English version that was almost frame-for-frame identical to the original.

Movies like “The Piano Teacher,” a psychosexual drama about a woman with buried pathologies and sado-masochistic tendencies, all wrapped up in an elegant environment.

Compared to those twisted tales “Amour,” might seem downright  humanistic. But there’s savagery  even here.

(more…)

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