Nick's Review of Amour
There are a lot of movies out there so immediately satisfying to call good, if not necessarily great. I'm not saying they all have to be as bizarrely spellbinding and painfully essential as the brilliant German director Michael Haneke's already award-winning "Amour", but there's got to be a passion, an ache it brings out and makes us feel. Being as rich and rewarding as "Amour" doesn't hurt, either. It's not the sort of movie you'd expect from writer-director Haneke, known for and skilled at the violence and lauded shock in controversial films such as "Benny's Video", "Funny Games", and "Cache". But there's his mark from first to final stunning frame in "Amour" -- following up his black-and-white 2009 masterwork "The White Ribbon" -- in talk of death, time, past lives, dreams and silent screams in nightmares.
Yet what "Amour" achieves with just the basic setting of a stage play in a story focused on bourgeoisie aged couple Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anna (Emmanuelle Riva), the camera trapped completely in their Paris apartment when the latter receives a stroke that leaves her right side paralyzed, is the stuff a filmmaker hints his entire career at making.
A film wrapped up in The End, "Amour" is a relationship drama the like of which we almost never see, where life, love, free will, and letting go are all parts in the natural flow of a selfless betrothal, especially as Anna slips into dementia and still Georges refuses aid to lighten the load. For their plight, the giftedly emotive Trintignant and Riva are quick to fill your soul. And it's to the credit of resplendent cinematographer Darius Khondji -- no stranger in shooting the City of Lights (he worked on the French comedy "Delicatessen" as well as the last two abroad-set Woody Allen pictures) -- that "Amour" feels just as big, buoyant and culturally haunted confined to a single penthouse as any blockbuster outside the walls.
"Amour" won't be for everyone -- it might even be pegged pretentious -- but that's not to decry its permanent realism as shuttered or imperceptible. It's a resonant, lived-in, albeit difficult piece of cinema. No serious movie fan would expect anything less from the great Haneke. The love in his "Amour" is astonishing. You can't pull your heart away.