Sunday, August 27, 2006

1. Michael Haneke's "Cache" (Hidden): A French film made by an Austrian in 2005


Beginning as a clinical, psychological and social study of a respectable European, it ends as a study of a larger segment of contemporary Europe. It reminds you of the early works of Fassbinder—-only Hanneke's production values are more sophisticated. The camera becomes a character—-a major one at that--reminding the viewer that s/he is watching cinema at several junctures and that s/he is part of the entertainment process. You constantly ponder if the movie is providing truth or lies (or something in-between) 24 frames-per-second. The fixed-medium range shots that open and close the film indicate the stand of the director--clinical and distanced from the story he unfolds. We notice that what we are seeing, might not be true. Antonioni did this in Blow up decades ago.

The director carefully distances himself from a situation where he could resolve the issues for the viewer—-he prefers to leave the job to the viewer. The entertainment continues after the screening.

Cache is a study of European colonial guilt and race relations. It probes complacency of the financially secure classes. Escape from reality comes from closing curtains, shutting off the outside world and consuming sleeping tablets. At another level, the film explores the attitudes of three distinct generations towards social relationships.

Haneke uses graphic shocking violent scenes to jolt the audiences when they least expect it. He seems to enjoy the process. His strength is not in his cinema (Kubrick, in comparison, was brilliant at this game). Hanneke's strength lies elsewhere—eliciting fascinating performances from his cast. Daniel Auteuil, Julliette Binoche, Maurice Benichou and Annie Girardot are simply fascinating to watch.

The film's strength lies in the disturbing subject. Many of us have something in our past that we wish to hide. It is conscience that nags us to believe that there was a witness to a wrongdoing--a witness who cannot be buttonholed. This makes the film tick.

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