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Winning Best Actor, Best Actress for Isabelle Huppert and Grand Prix, Michael Haneke's pyschosexual chef d'oeuvre about the sexual perversion of the titular instructress begs for a heated psychoanalytical inquiry into sadomasochism, manipulative parenting, liberal feminism. and ephebophilia.
Definitely not about pianos.
I suppose Michael Haneke is primarily known for Funny Games (1997) and Amour (2012) but this is one of his most interesting films as he provides an intimate portrait of a struggling woman. This is one of the best films of 2001, a year that also produced Mulholland Drive (2001) and In the Bedroom (2001), and contains a career defining performance from Isabelle Huppert one of France's greatest acting talents. I was simultaneously disturbed and touched while watching this woman's carefully constructed life fall apart as one attraction causes a downfall that was inevitable. This isn't for the faint of heart and it's definitely a film that aims to provoke and shock but under the more tawdry elements of the story there is a deep, heartfelt message.
Strict piano teacher Erica, Isabelle Huppert, lives in Paris with her overbearing mother and without an outlet for her sexual desires takes out her frustration in a myriad of odd ways including self mutilating and weeing outside cars that contain fornicating couples. Her life is thrown into disarray when the much young Walter, Benoit Magimel, develops an attraction to her despite being her pupil. She reciprocates the attraction but needs to be in complete control during their sexual encounters impeding their relationship. She also attempts to achieve the goals she did not achieve as a youth while destroying the life of one of her pupils. In the end her desire for him to brutally rape and beat her destroys their relationship as her tendencies go too far.
The movie really works because Huppert is so brilliant in the lead role. Even shots of her simply scrutinizing her students piano playing skills work because Huppert's face is so capable of showing fragility and pain mixed with unmatched steeliness that won't be cut down by any teenage boy. Desire, lust, love and pain often mix together as her character's motivations change dramatically from scene to scene but Huppert makes her transformation believable as she uses her entire body to display just how messed up in the head she is. She was giving one of the three best performances from actresses in 2001 along with Naomi Watts and Sissy Spacek which only makes me more upset that this film doesn't get more mainstream attention.
The eroticism in the film also works because the scenes of intimacy are shot intimately and we feel involved in the passions of the characters instead of feeling the sort of curious detachment that is so present in Sliver (1993) and Fifty Shades of Grey (2015). The scenes of Huppert giving Magimel a hand job show the frustrations of their relationship better than almost any scene in the film as we see the actors give themselves over completely to their roles. The simple camera work during scenes in which Huppert engages in truly disturbing behavior also adds to the feeling that we are a part of this woman's life instead of feeling like voyeurs or uncomfortable onlookers. The level of compassion and genuine fear that we feel for this character is rare in this sort of film but this is a film that succeeds despite itself.
I wish that more films like this were being made as blending eroticism and character studies can work really well and while I don't doubt that few directors could achieve the blend quite as well as Haneke I would like to see Christian Petzold's version of this sort of story. Watching Nina Hoss inhabit a similar role to the one that Huppert gets would be a delight as she would be gifted with the sort of writing that has eluded her in her We Are The Night (2010) and Summer Window (2011). I don't know who Petzold would cast as his Walter Klemmer but I am sure he'd be able to find someone with weird, wonderful chemistry to match Huppert and Magimel and the German-ness of it all could add a different flavor to the story.
This may be a hard film to get people to watch with you, I would not recommend you watch it with others, but it is remarkably watchable even if you sit through the whole two hours and eleven minutes on your own.
What am I looking at. I don't want some French tranny freakshow on my screen get it away post haste.
Michael Haneke undeniably knows how to make a good movie, but one's ultimate appreciation for his work will be based on their idea of what content is considered acceptable which is where opinions on The Piano Teacher will be split. As someone who appreciates Haneke's willingness to traverse into psychologically draining concepts and do so in such an unsympathetic way, The Piano Teacher is a cinematic achievement and deserves to be analyzed by those who retain objectivity after viewing it.
The Piano Teacher was a movie that I worried would not be enjoyable for me because it so heavily focuses on sex and sexual desire, and I tend to shy away from movies with that theme. However, my problem with the movie was less about the sexuality in the film, and more about the complete lack of it. This film wasn’t erotic, it was repulsive. Isabelle Huppert plays an insane person who appears to have no concept of how to function outside of a professional student-teacher arrangement. She has masochistic tendencies, but it never appears to result in pleasure of any kind. One of the big scenes between the piano teacher and her paramour involves reviewing a contract, what is this Fifty Shades of Grey? A more interesting film would have been an exploration of how she has become damaged and why she cannot allow herself positive experiences, but this movie is more about showing us her misery and how it brings down everyone around her. Beyond the unpleasant subject matter of The Piano Teacher, it’s also a boring movie. There’s limited dialogue, and a number of almost silent scenes. The pace of the film is tedious, and watching it felt like I was dragging along some dead weight. If I had the option I would have just watched it on double-speed and perhaps the movie would not have felt as dull. However, this is a problem that I often struggle with in unpleasant films. When I do not care about the characters, and I cannot identify with them in any way, I am bored by the monotony of watching their lives. When I’m this disconnected with a film I often find myself trying to figure out what it is that others like about it, or how the filmmakers want me to feel. The Piano Teacher is one of my least favorite styles of movie because I could not figure out the answers to these questions. The ambiguous ending was just icing on the cake of frustration I had already experienced with the film. Ranking on my Flickchart Loses to Paul Loses to Friends & Lovers Loses to Danger Zone Loses to Christian Mingle Wins against Identity Thief Loses to Strange Days Wins against Hereditary Loses to One Night Stand Loses to Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous Loses to 1941 Loses to Ocean’s Twelve The Piano Teacher ranked 1525 out of 1592
masterpiece !, isabelle deserves a oscar for her performance in this movie.
Inspired by Last Tango in Paris, or the films that influenced Last Tango in Paris, this film goes into graphic psychological detail and ends like a situation or relationship may end in real life.
Disturbing and indecent but stirring
Michael Haneke boasts a talent to handle uncomfortable and thought-provoking themes in The Piano Teacher, a harrowing psychosexual drama with a top notch cast led by Isabelle Huppert's commanding performance in the title role.