New York Film Festival: Amour
In a stroke (absolutely no pun intended) of casting genius, playing the elderly couple Anne and Georges, two aging music teachers, are Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, the stars of Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the 1959 breakthrough film by Alain Resnais. Their performances in this new film are nothing short of stunning, and the chemistry that they had back in the days of the fledgling French New Wave is readily visible here. It is heartbreaking to experience the decline of Anne as portrayed by Ms. Riva. The way she twists her face, seemingly sucking the very life out of it, together with her cries of pain and unintelligent attempts at speech, embodies a performance of Academy Award caliber. Likewise, Mr. Trintignant is very impressive as her patient husband. During the course of the film Anne calls him a "monster," but Georges is almost never given to hysterics during his wife's long ordeal, although, just underneath the surface, anyone can see that he is ready to explode with unspeakable violence.
Michael Haneke has crafted a film that reminds us that the way of all flesh is at times unbearable and unjust. In his previous film The White Ribbon (2009), he dared to show the genesis of evil -- the beginning of Nazi ideology as seen from the point of view of a small northern German village. Now, the Austrian director, working in French, attempts to come to terms with life and its ultimate end, a landscape perhaps more complex, even more mysterious, and arguably richer than that of the birth of political ideologies. The success of Amour lies in the fact that Mr. Haneke does not hold back. As with his previous film it is a work that is often hard to look at, but never strikes a false note.