Film Review : Dogtooth (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Film

Directed By – Giorgos Lanthimos
Starring – Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Hristos Passalis, Mary Tsoni, and Anna Kalaitzidou

Three teenagers carry out their lives under the close watch of their parents. They have never been off their property and know nothing of the world.

Holy shit!

This is probably one of the strangest and most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve seen some pretty far out horror films and I’m a huge fan of Michael Haneke but this was just bizarre and crudely funny in a way. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with my taste in film to where I liked a film like this so much. The funny thing is, I don’t think I can watch it again. It was such an uncomfortable watch but like a car accident, just damn near impossible to turn away from.

Lanthimos directs a completely unflinching tale of family conditioning at its most nightmarish. I really shouldn’t go into the plot of the film too much because it’s really something you need to experience for yourself but the story revolves around a family of five and the way the parents raise their children. Let me just say that these parents make the Lohans and kiddie pageant people look like saints. It’s not even like they are cruel or abusive…well, okay, I have no idea what they are. All I know is that it’s so uncomfortable to watch that I just know it’s evil.

The film holds nothing back. Just when you think they are going to cut the movie goes from PG-13 to OH GOD NO in seconds. I’ve never really seen something like that. It just makes me believe that Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is most likely going to make people explode. I can see a little old lady walk into that thing and just come out crying, wishing somebody would turn back time to wear they weren’t allowed to show people kissing on television.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of meaning behind Dogtooth. Obviously conditioning is a main theme and focal point. I mean they didn’t have to show this but they actually had worked dog trainers into the story just to drive that theme home. Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” also popped into my mind a few times as if you watch the film you can plainly see draws cues from the old man. AHHH I WANT TO SAY THINGS BUT I CAN’T.

Just watch the film. By yourself. This isn’t a date movie. Put the kids to bed. Prepare your mind for “WHAT!?” type ideas. Just watch it. It’s fantastic.


Film Review : The White Ribbon (2009)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 85%

Academy Award Nominations
Best Cinematography
Best Foreign Language Film

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival

Directed By – Michael Haneke
Starring – Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi, and Burghart Klaußner

Strange events happen in a small village in the north of Germany during the years just before World War I, which seem to be ritual punishment. The abused and suppressed children of the villagers seem to be at the heart of this mystery.

If I were to name five of my favorite directors living today, Michael Haneke would not only be on that list but would be near the top. Cache is one of my favorite films of all time and I enjoyed his recent film Amour. He’s notorious for being extremely bleak and brutal in his portrayals of life but in that creates some of the most beautiful films modern cinema has ever seen. He tackled sexuality in The Piano Teacher, Alzheimer’s disease in Amour, and even torture in both versions of Funny Games. He is literally a director that makes people both fascinated and dreadful to enter a theater for two hours. This is why I love him. I love being moved and poked and prodded for a response whether good or bad. I love that he almost always leaves his viewers with more questions than answers. Lastly, I often fall in love with his camerawork. His work requires repeat viewings and while I have only sat through The White Ribbon once, I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again.

Filmed in black and white as if to automatically distance the viewer from any sort of emotional attachment to these characters. The rosy and lush countryside of Germany is now transformed into a bleak landscape reminiscent of Bela Tarr’s The Turin Horse. This is ultimately a much easier view than Tarr’s work but that is saying something all together. This is not an easy watch. Events start to unfold from the get go as the town doctor is thrown from his horse due to wire being strung across two trees. The mystery of the event only begins a series of strange occurrences that take place over the rest of the film.

Haneke is famous for his static shots where he lets the viewer play voyeur over the scene. While his technique is not used as much as his previous films we are still treated to long takes of this small German village operating as its inhabitants go about their daily lives. You really get a sense of how certain events can spread like the plague to other villagers when you live in such a small town. The children, who are really the main focus of the theme lash out and get the full force of their parents as we are treated to a view of a generation which will soon grow up to be some of the most evil people in history, the Nazis. These kids are ages five through fourteen in 1913. Do the math.

The White Ribbon ended up being a character study of how foul people can be and how witnesses of such events can keep their mouths closed for so long. The symbolism of Nazi Germany is a subtle, under the skin type affair that ties this film in a horrible bow. I highly recommend this film to people who can stomach slow burns and realistic yet disturbing events.


Film Review : Amour (2012)

IMDB Score – 7.8
RT Score – 93 %

Academy Award Winner for Best Foreign Language Film
Academy Award Nominee for Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture
Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or Winner

…and there I sat staring at my television.

This is the third time this has happened to me after viewing one of Michael Haneke’s films. The other two films being Cache and The Piano Teacher. This film however left a different lasting effect on me. The film tells the story of an elderly couple trying to get through life after after Anne, played stunningly by Emmanuelle Riva, suffers a stroke. Jean-Louis Trintignant gies a tour de force portrayal as Anne’s husband Georges who now has to care for her.

Like most of Haneke’s films, there really isn’t a lot to say about Amour. His films are the essence of emotion for me. He may just be the best director living today. I’m a self acclaimed Paul Thomas Anderson fanboy but I can’t possibly choose between the two. They are different and yet make films that leave such a lasting impression on the viewer. Amour is exactly about the films title, love. Riva and Trintignant put entire lifetimes worth of experiences and emotions into their characters and it’s absolutely heartbreaking to see them together. I’ve always been able to forget that what I’m seeing on the screen is a film and tell myself not to be too upset or angry with the people I’m watching, but it was hard with this one. The realism just seeps through and as a person with a grandfather going through the exact same thing Anne was going through in the film, it was a tough but important watch.

This is an important film. It’s a complete portrayal of the bounds humans go through to care for the people they love. Haneke holds nothing back. It’s a personal film unlike any other really. I’m actually happy this film lost the Best Picture award to Argo last year because this film really wasn’t in the same league as the others. It’s a film that requires patience and a strong will to get through but rewards the viewer with such a real experience into what thousands of people go through every day. How can you compare that to films about a tiger in a boat or a murderous slave hellbent on revenge?

You just can’t.


Film Review : The Piano Teacher (2001)

IMDB Score – 7.3
RT Score – 73%

Best Actor Cannes Film Festival – Benoît Magimel
Best Actress Cannes Film Festival – Isabelle Huppert
Grand Prize of the Jury Cannes Film Festival – Michael Haneke

Okay, so I have been watching a lot of very difficult films lately. This is the third film by Michael Haneke that I have seen now after really liking Code Unknown and considering Cache is one of my favorite films ever. This however was definitely the most difficult to watch based on how grim and depressing the protagonist. Isabelle Huppert plays a gifted piano professor and scholar who has a dark secret…masochism. The movie follows this development as she meets and befriends a student. The film is a serious character study as we are shown some disturbing realities on how people live and deal with their problems. Masochism is a problem by the way. It isn’t a fetish. It isn’t normal. That is some deranged shit brought on by serious childhood trauma. This is obviously just my opinion but when you watch Huppert’s character go through these motions you can’t help but feel sick and sad for somebody so f’ed up in the head. Haneke crafts a haunting film but leaves, as normal for him, so many unanswered questions. It’s a brutal film slowly drained of human emotion which is ironic because there is so much beautiful music in this film. I appreciated it for what it was and Huppert was just, well, amazing really. I just didn’t really take to the subject matter and really wanted to the film to end as soon as possible.


Film Review : Code Unknown (2000)

Netflix Instant Watch
IMDB Score : 7.0
RT Score : 71%

I love Michael Haneke. He truly is one of the most unique filmmakers today. The man made one of my all time favorite films in Cache and was prominent in the Academy Awards last year for his film Amour, which he won for best foreign language film and was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. Haneke’s visual style is a minimalist one. He tends to leave the camera in a prone position and let whats happening around the camera dictate what the viewer sees. When the camera moves, it moves in long unbroken takes that can last several minutes and only follow the character in front of the screen. No close ups. No quick cuts. Life doesn’t look like that. In that same ideal Haneke gets his actors to routinely give amazing performances without actually seeming that they’re acting. It’s almost as if they are carrying out their day to day lives as the long shots Haneke gives us feel like voyeurism on an average persons walk home. Juliette Binoche is turning into one of my favorite actresses. She was fantastic in Cache and she’s fantastic in this. The film is about four intersecting lives and the repercussions of a small but rippling event portrayed in the beginning of the film. This isn’t like every other “everything is connected” films. Two of the main characters are in love but the other two barely interact with one another. It’s a great example of how little things can make big differences. I wasn’t that into the story for most of the film. Haneke crosses countries and time frames frequently and can be a bit disorienting but it never gets too fragmented to take the viewer out of watching the film. The last 20 minutes are absolutely fantastic, especially the scene with Binoche on the train which was part of the trailer above. Haneke also has mastered the technique of giving us a view of something and then revealing it to be something completely different. Such was the case in this film where we have a scene playing out that turns out to be part of a movie being filmed. It’s a creative way of filmmaking that I’ve really only seen Haneke do correctly. I highly suggest the film and anything else by Haneke for that matter.