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Opening: Amour


The sparse and lovely Palme D'Or winner from writer/director Michael Haneke has garnered 6 well-deserved Oscar nominations. It's an unblinking portrait of a woman (Emmanuelle Riva) in physical and mental decline, cared for by her pragmatic, stalwart husband (Jean-Louis Trintignant). It's bleak and somber and ferociously monotonous, and yet it's saved from its tedium by an intense singularity of purpose. Haneke hasn't romanticized the lives of people in their eighties as their component parts break down; he's embalmed them. It's got that slow, bare-bones aspect of something adapted from a short story. And in general, there's a mesmerizing quality to the everyday-ness of these vignettes. Everything's small-scale, quiet. Even the color palette — browns and beiges and soft blues — asserts Haneke's unwavering commitment to reality. There's no bawdy tears, no melodrama. On the flipside, there're no moments of levity or whimsy that we frankly expect from movies about illness. This one's all business. For 80 percent of the film, the two actors are all by themselves. They sit and talk or sit and read or sit and then painstakingly covey themselves from one room to the next. Haneke and his cinematographer have choreographed the film beautifully, but unobtrusively. We continue to rediscover Anne and Georges' apartment with them. We become party to the physical space, and party to the routine that their lives become. When Georges tells his daughter, before Anne returns from the hospital after an unsuccessful operation, "It's all terribly exciting," the irony (and the elegance) is that it's not at all.

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