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Category: Michael Haneke

Cannes 2012: A fest filled with wild (and divisive) experiments

May 27, 2012 |  2:30 pm

Holoymotor
CANNES, France — The Cannes Film Festival didn't see a breakout on the order of “The Artist” this year. And yet “The Artist” was everywhere.

The silent film's sense of playfulness and disregard for convention pretty much infused the festival. Wherever one looked, there seemed to be another bold experiment — sometimes delighting audiences, often polarizing them.

Among the more well-received movies of the 65th edition of Cannes, which wrapped Sunday evening, was Leos Carax's “Holy Motors,” a surrealist romp through the streets of Paris. Some of its touches: A man biting the body parts off people at a cemetery-set photo shoot and limousines that spoke to one another in darkened garages.

PHOTOS: Cannes Film Festival 2012

Carax was hardly alone in his eccentricity. The Mexican director Carlos Reygadas offered “Post Tenebras Lux,” a dreamlike story shot with distorted lenses that featured a sex club where rooms are named after famous intellectuals. The film divided audiences but earned him the director's award.

Michael Haneke, the provocateur Austrian director of “Funny Games” and “The Piano Teacher” and a filmmaker who embodies a contemporary cinematic adventurousness, broke form himself by eschewing the violence and sex of his earlier work to make "Amour," a tender drama about aging, which took home the Palme d’Or prize Sunday evening.

And the Chilean Pablo Larrain directed one of the more unusual political films in recent years — a dramatic satire of the 1988 Chilean elections starring Gael Garcia Bernal that was shot to look as if the movie had been discovered on a VHS tape from the era. Tersely titled “No,” the movie became one of the fan favorites of the festival and scored a U.S. distribution deal from Sony Pictures Classics.

“I wanted people to feel like the archival footage we were using looked and felt like the rest of the movie,” Larrain told 24 Frames. “And I wanted to have a little fun with the medium.”

English-language directors did their share of wild noodling too. With “Cosmopolis,” David Cronenberg set nearly an entire movie in a stretch limousine as Robert Pattinson starred in a futuristic exploration of the end of technocapitalism.

The Oscar nominee Lee Daniels, meanwhile, tried his hand at an intensely heightened 1960's melodrama in “The Paperboy,” a period movie about race and murder starring Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron; the movie was so filled with over-the-top touches that it prompted pundit Eugene Hernandez to proclaim this the auteurs-gone-wild festival. Neither “Paperboy” nor “Cosmopolis” went over well with critics or festivalgoers.

Indeed, U.S.-set films, the subject of much hype coming into the festival, were also some of its biggest disappointments. Also faltering with festgoers was John Hillcoat's Prohibition-era “Lawless,” which starred Shia LaBeouf as a brother in a family of bootleggers.

LaBeouf and many Hollywood stars sought to use Cannes for another purpose: to reinvent themselves as more serious actors. Perhaps none did so more successfully than Matthew McConaughey, the romantic-comedy staple who established himself as a potential Oscar contender with his turn as an enigmatic homeless man in “Mud,” a contemporary spin on “Huckleberry Finn.” Directed by Jeff Nichols, “Mud” was by far the best-received movie of the English-language crop.

Attempts at a career makeover were also undertaken by the stars of one of the globe's biggest franchises. In addition to Pattinson's turn as a paranoid Wall Street mogul in “Cosmopolis,” Kristen Stewart, his “Twilight” costar and comrade in tween idoldom, tried a prestige turn in the long-awaited adaptation of Jack Kerouac's “On the Road.” The film received reasonably enthusiastic responses, as did Stewart for her role as Marylou from the iconic book.

“I just want to take good roles,” Stewart said, when asked by The Times about how this turn might propel her career. “That's true whether it’s a big movie or a small one, or a comedy or a drama, or if a director wants to try something completely new.”

She's in luck. Judging by this year's Cannes, plenty of filmmakers are willing to oblige.

RELATED:

Cannes 2012: 'Amour' captures festival's top prize

Cannes 2012: 'Holy Motors' has 'em saying Holy Moly

Cannes 2012: With 'Cosmpolis,' Rob Pattinson seeks acting cred

Cannes 2012: Jeff Nichols cleans up with 'Mud'

 — Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Denis Lavant in "Holy Motors." Credit: Cannes Film Festival


Cannes 2012: 'Amour' director Haneke says he hasn't mellowed

May 26, 2012 | 12:28 pm

Haneke
Two months ago, the Austrian director Michael Haneke turned 70, which might explain why he recently took a turn from his provocateur past to make "Amour," a tender movie about a Parisian couple struggling with old age.

But ask Haneke if the prospect of that personal milestone informed the poignant tone of his new French-language film and he'll demur.

"It was simply the subject that called for this treatment," Haneke said earlier this week from a hotel suite at the Cannes Film Festival, where his movie premiered to rave reviews and became an instant Palme d'Or front-runner. "If I was making a movie about a different subject it might have demanded a different kind of treatment."

Upon being gently reminded that it was he, after all, who chose to make a movie about this tender subject in the first place, Haneke gave a sly smile and said. "If you're asking whether I've become a nicer person, well, you'll have to ask my wife."

Always crisply courteous in person, Haneke has spent the last 15 years making films that have been anything but polite.

With the immigrant drama "Cache" (2005), the original German-language and then remade English-language psychological thrillers "Funny Games" (1997 and 2008), and the inter-generational sex drama "The Piano Teacher" (2001), Haneke has built a reputation for uncomfortable material and unsettling scenes, as anyone who's watched the voyeurism-gone-violent of "Cache" or the infamous sex-on-a-bathroom-floor moments of "Piano Teacher" can affirm.

"Amour" is a different animal. The movie is a restrained story of a musically inclined octogenarian couple, Georges and Anne (played by the legendary French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva), who are thrown for a loop when Anne suffers a stroke and her health begins to decline. Hardly in great health himself, Georges must then care for his wife while he attends to his own feelings of grief.

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Cannes 2012: Michael Haneke's 'Amour' feels the love

May 20, 2012 |  7:23 pm


Michael Haneke's AmourConsensus at Cannes is about an improbable as a Del Taco at the Louvre. But the numerous critics and wide swath of public filmgoers attending the festival seem to have found common ground on a new movie: the mortality drama “Amour." Michael Haneke’s meticulous look at an octogenarian man and the wife he is slowly losing to the after-effects of a stroke (the French-language film is referred to as "Love" in English) scored raves from critics as well as a warmly enthusiastic reaction from the public when it premiered Sunday in a rain-soaked Cannes.

Sunday night’s post-screening standing ovation, a key measure of Cannes sentiment, topped seven minutes, and audience members could be heard buzzing about the film on the way out in the manner you wouldn’t expect from a movie about a slow death.

Like its main characters’ existence, the film’s dramatic furniture is simple. Some problems with their grown daughter (Isabelle Huppert) notwithstanding, octogenarians Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Luis Trintignant) have led a comfortable, cultured life as music teachers, and seem to be enjoying a relaxed retirement. But when Anne is felled by a stroke, their idyll is destroyed. She begins declining mentally and physically, and he is pressed into a thousand difficult tasks while watching the love of his life fade away, asked to do a lot but not able to do anything where it really counts.

It’s the kind of movie that brings filmgoers starkly face-to-face with the realities of failing health and death. Older viewers will be more likely to focus on themselves; younger filmgoers will think of parents and grandparents.

Those with good memories and/or a taste for mortality cinema might watch "Amour" and recall "Away From Her," Sarah Polley's 2006 examination of a marriage ravaged by dementia, though there’s undeniably something more intimate and under-your-skin here. There are also a few shocking moments in the vein of some of Haneke’s more famous provocations, but it’s generally a low-key work; if gentle Haneke isn’t an oxymoron, then that’s how it’s best described. (More shortly from Haneke himself on his eclectic career--from "The Piano Teacher" to "Cache" to "The White Ribbon"--and the process behind this film.)

"Amour" will be released by Sony Pictures Classics later this year, when it will face some hurdles. Some moviegoers know of Haneke’s reputation as a master of the uncomfortable and may pass on those grounds; others simply may not want to see a drama focused on death and dying.

Much of the promotional campaign, though, could be built around the actors, whose back stories are almost as compelling as the film. In their eighties themselves and, as a press conference indicated, more slow-footed than they once were, Riva and Trintignant hark back to an earlier time in entertainment. Riva, whose performance here makes her an instant Oscar contender, began her career in the wartime romance "Hiroshima Mon Amour" 53 years ago. (She would turn 86 the day of next year's Oscars, the oldest age of any nominee in history by about five years.)

Though 81,  Trintignant  has been working even longer, notably starring in movies such as Costa-Gavras’ best picture nominee “Z” over a remarkable 56-year career.

Still, Trintignant had been in retirement and hadn’t had a bona fide film part in nearly 15 years before Haneke lured him back. “I didn't want to act in films anymore,” Trintignant told reporters Sunday morning, saying he had been concentrating on occasional theater work. “But when Haneke offered me this part it was an exception,” describing how demanding the filmmaker is.  He then added to some laughter, “I think he's one of the great directors in the world, and it’s a wonderful opportunity. But I won't do it again.”

RELATED:

Cannes 2012: Is 'Sapphires' a fine gem or costume jewelry?

Cannes 2012: Shia LaBeouf's 'Lawless,' parable for the drug war?

Cannes 2012: Redoing Romeo and Juliet for the Twilight generation

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

 Photo: Amour. Credit: Sony Pictures Classics


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