Film Review: Amour (2012)

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*I know, fucking finally a new review. Sorry boys and girls, I’ve been busy and shit like that, enjoy this review now*

By Franz

I’ve seen only four movies by Michael Haneke, but I must say I’m absolutely loving his work. I adored the ambiguous brilliance in Cache, Funny Games US was an entertaining and thought provoking film about violence and while I didn’t love Benny’s Video, I do respect that film for what it’s trying to say. And his 2012 film about love and the pain of losing someone, Amour, might be my favorite of his. Amour was just about the last 2012 film that I wanted to see, but hadn’t, until recently and somewhat surprisingly, it’s probably my second favorite of the year, behind P.T. Anderson’s The Master. It’s one of the most difficult films I’ve ever seen emotionally and one of the most perfect I’ve seen.

While some complained that the film is “cold”, since Haneke directs it very objectively, rather than trying to emotionally manipulate you into feeling something. The subject matter is sad, heart-breaking and something we can all relate to, either you have experienced what the main character is experiencing or you will. And even if you haven’t, it’s still a powerful emotion. So, Haneke’s objectivity can throw you off, thinking it’s a cold film, but it’s not, it’s simply trying to show something “real”, without wanting to sugar-coat it, showing you the harsh reality. If the film could be described with one word it would be “real” or “humane”, at least in my opinion. If this was an American movie or simply a movie by a lesser director, there would be big, emotional crying scenes and a happy ending of somewhat. But Haneke does almost the exact opposite. For example, when Anne has her first stroke and goes to the hospital, we expect a hospital scene, something right before the surgery or something, but no, Haneke skips that. And almost every “big” moment, Haneke doesn’t show, rather he decides to show their everyday life, showing her decay slowly and the impact of their normal day to day life. And that’s a lot more effective than having a tedious hospital moments. And another thing, Haneke shows them as humans, as real people, they aren’t perfect. We slowly see how the husband starts getting sick of her, you feel his pain as his wife is slowly dying and as each day passes, she isn’t the same person anymore. And of course the ending is something you wouldn’t see in a classic tear-jerker movie. Haneke shows his characters as honestly as he can, as flawed people, which to me makes the film so heart-breaking and humane.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanualle Riva are both fantastic, of course both are excellent actors, who worked with some of the greatest directors of all time like Bertolucci and Alain Resnais, they’r one of the main reasons why this film works as well as it does. Of course everybody talks about Riva’s great performance as Anne, and she is heart-breaking and so real and most definitely should have won the Oscar, but Trintignant is great as well, showing how difficult it is to let go and showing so much restraint through out the movie. Riva is amazing as well, the embarrassment and humiliations on her face is so painful to watch at times, she’s just so real in the role and especially the shower scene is one of the most difficult scenes of all time. And those two are pretty much the only people in the film, sure their daughter is in this too, and she’s fine, but she has like three scenes. However the character is still very interesting, wanting to keep her mother alive but knowing how it will end and how soon that will be. She’s frustrated and shows it a lot more than the much more frustrated Georges. But she doesn’t have a lot screentime, so she’s not really worth talking about. So it’s basically just Riva and Trintignant, and Riva doesn’t really talk after the first hour so basically they have to carry the movie and they do it amazingly well.

The film is slow and if you don’t like slower paced movies, you shouldn’t watch this, especially the last ten or so minutes are very slow and even I’ll admit it went on maybe a minute too long. But the pacing didn’t hurt the overall, the slower style suits the film, like Cache, it creates a fantastic atmosphere rather than bore the audience. I guess you could say that about every Haneke film, though my only big complaint about Benny’s Video was that I thought it way too fucking slow, un-bearably slow at times. But Amour, even if the last ten minutes are very quiet and slow, never gets boring, the acting and Haneke precise camera work kept me interested through-out and even if the film doesn’t show “big” moments, the day-to-day stuff is still so heart-breaking. It’s a very quiet film, of course one of Haneke’s trademarks is he doesn’t use music that isn’t “in the story”, only music here is when it’s featured in the film, for example they go to a concert in the beginning and we hear the piano. And that’s effective, somehow the lack of emotional violin music in the film, actually make the film more emotional. Even the camera work is so naturalistic and subtle, Haneke doesn’t waste his time with expensive jerking-off shots or even beautifully lit moments, rather he prefers realistic settings and subtle cinematography. Everything seems so realistic and down-to-earth. Some could argue that Haneke doesn’t have a “style” but I would disgaree. People who say that are probably the people who say Zack Snyder has his own “style” because his films look slightly different, but that doesn’t make you an auteur. Haneke’s style isn’t visual, rather story-telling, always being objective and realistic, leaving the moral questions to the audience to decide for themselves. His visual ques are mostly subtle, every edit and angle are just about perfect and it seems like he knows why to shoot a scene with angle like this or that, rather than just doing a nice angle for the sake of having a nice shot. Every shot and cut seems meaningful and honest. Ps, I’m not ripping on Snyder, he’s fine, not unique in any way, but fine as a director.

If you don’t mind a little slower pace, you’re going to fall in love with Amour (pun intended?), it’s heart-breaking, emotional, humane and most importantly, honest. It’s a tear-jerker, but not your traditional one, it’s shows the pain of the characters very objectively and doesn’t force you into liking these people, but it’s asking you to understand them. They’re flawed people, who are trying to do the best they can, but sometimes they can’t, because of human error. It’s one of the most beautiful films ever made, with some of 21st century’s most realistic performances. If you have a heart, this is going to break you down and probably depress the shit out of you. It’s a masterpiece: 10/10.

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Thoughts on: Southpaw (2015), Maps to The Stars (2014) and Cache (2005)

By Franz

Yeah I know, long time no new content. But, like I said about five times now, I’m working on a screenplay with a bunch of friends so that has been keeping me busy. But since I think I’m some what comfortable with the progress so I can take a brake from worrying about how big of a piece of shit it will be, I thought I should review some films I’ve seen recently. I thought I would give each of these their own review, but I’m too lazy and honestly only one film here actually deserves a lengthy review and that is Cache, because it is a brilliant film, but I think it has been analyzed to death, so I’ll be brief (or try to be) with these.

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So up first is the brand new Jake Gyllenhaal boxing movie Southpaw aka Rocky 7: The Revenge of Adrian. I was fucking hyped for this movie, Gyllenhaal coming straight from Nightcrawler, where he played a skinny weirdo, buffing himself up to be an aggressive boxer, it looked and sounded great. But then the trailer hit and it sucked. But I thought “Well, I shouldn’t judge based on the trailer”, but my judgement was completely right; it fucking sucked. While movies like The Fighter and Warriors are cliche in the story and even in their characters, they get away with those because of the acting and most importantly: they seem genuine. They seem like they were passion projects and aren’t just some heartless studio hack stuff, but sadly Southpaw is just a cliche, boring hack-eyed and lazy film that suffers from terrible directing and sup-par performances and characters. If you ever said to yourself “Hey, I would love to see Rocky 1, but with more melodrama, even more cheesiness and the villain from Rocky 3” then you’re probably a fucking mongoloid. Practically everybody’s terrible in this, sadly even great actors like Forest Whitaker and Rachel McAdams (okay, not a “great” actor but still). However there is a somewhat saving grace here, and that grace goes by the name Jake Gyllenhaal. But, kinda disappointingly, it’s a good performance, but not a great one. It should be a great one, it should be his show, but somehow he never reaches that intensity and power he showed in Nightcrawler, which isn’t his fault, since there were plenty of scenes were he acted his ass off, the script just wasn’t very good.

Short Term 12 (2013)

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*Repost from TSW

By Franz

I wanted to see this film for a long time, but it wasn’t coming to the theaters here in Turku (my hometown here in Finland) but now I finally found it online. And it did not disapoint at all. I just loved this film, probably one of the best of 2013, I would maybe even put this in my top 5 or even top 3 or 2013, this was one fucking great film. And like always (well, most of the time), I’ll separate the review in 3 parts: Acting/performances, directing/cinematography/etc and overall, so let’s start with…

Acting/performances

The main character, Grace, is played by Brie Larson and I’m shocked that she wasn’t even nominated, ’cause her performance was fucking excellent. The character is fascinating, Larson’s performance is emotional gripping, she’s just brilliant. I love the character of Grace, she seems normal enough but as we see more of her life, we find out just how broken and tired she is at life. On the outside, she’s a balanced normal girl with a loving boyfriend, a nice job and a great future. On the inside, she’s struggling with borderline suicide, she’s a emotional mess, she’s confused at what’s she’s going to do, she has no plans and shes not even sure about her relationship with Mason. She keeps it all inside, not even talking to Mason about her problems, as she feel he couldn’t understand and she might be right. She does start opening up to a girl, who she feels is going through the same experience as she did and they do find comfort in each other. Grace is one of the most natural, one of the most human, characters I’ve ever seen on screen.

Also her boyfriend, Mason, played by John Gallagher Jr. is wonderful as the loveable, sweet boyfriend. Really, this guy is like every mid-20’s women’s dream, loving, caring, knows how to cook, he’s cute etc. But he’s not portrayed as perfect neither, he’s a pushover and he’s not always sure what does Grace want of him. Gallagher as well should have been nominated, like he probably wouldn’t have deserved to win the Oscar, but at least a nomination.

Other’s were just as good; Rami Maled as Nate (who I kinda like, kinda don’t, he’s was kinda great in The Master, but kinda weird, he’s kinda cute, kinda isn’t, but in this he brings nice nuanced comedic moments which the film did need), Keith Stanfield as Marcus (damn, his rap was actually pretty good and goddamn the scene where they shave his head was fucking tear jerking) and Kaitlyn Dever as Jayden (who at first seemed kinda cliche, but managed to pull off surprisingly strong and emotional performance). Click page two to see the rest of the review

Starred Up (2013)

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By Franz

I heard about this movie from somewhere, maybe it was the Cinefiles podcast or maybe it was some list of 2013 films, I don’t remember but I bought this because six euros for a blu-ray is a steal. I wasn’t expecting a lot from this, but while it was flawed, it still blew me away. This was so goddamn great, if a couple of things would have been fixed, it would have been a masterpiece and would probably be my favorite film of 2013. So, let’s review David Mackenzie’s Starred Up:

Spoilers, probably. Yeah, fuck it, spoilers. If you don’t wish to be spoiled, just go to the overall section near the end of the review, at page 4.

Characters/Performances

Everybody has been praising Jack O’Connell’s performance as Eric and I have to agree, he steals the movie completely. Sure, everybody is amazing here, but O’Connell really shows his talents. This is one of those star-making roles, not as a leading man type or anything, but kinda like Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Freddy Quell in The Master, showing the world that he’s not just a alcoholic, drug abusing maniac, but that’s he’s a fucking great actor. I’ve been a fan of O’Connell ever since I saw him in the teen series Skins (the British version). I watched that show when I was kid and really enjoyed it and one of the stand alone performance in that was O’Connell, though his character wasn’t the greatest and most complex, O’Connell showed tremendous power as an actor. Okay, at times he was a bit over-the-top in that, but still he showed a lot more skill than most of the other actors. But I really figured he’s going to be a great actor after his role in the surprisingly under-rated horror film Eden Lake, which isn’t perfect but as a low-budget British horror, it’s pretty damn good. And again, O’Connell somehow stole the film, even with Michael Fassbender in the lead role. However, this film shows he’s a force to be recon with. Not only pulling the most difficult role in the film, he does it with raw power and subtlety.

O’Connell’s character, Eric Love, is a 19 year old man who is moved up (starred up) to adult prison, because of his violent behavior. And his dad is there too. Wonderful. Eric is a violent, bitter, angry young man who really doesn’t know anything other than to survive. His whole life he’s been struggling, living without a father figure, having a shitty mother and even an encounter with a pedophile and eventually lead him to murder. We’re never told a lot about him, sure we hear about the pedophile and his relationship with his father, but his mother is almost completely surrounded in mystery and what happened at the last prison. The film mostly focuses on Eric and his struggle with violence, as he is trying to get away from it. Hi relationship with his father is fascinating, at one hand he hates him, as he feels he abandoned him and almost blames him for his violent nature. But he also loves his father, in a way, because he knows he cares for him. His father feels the same way, he’s almost disappointed to even be his father at times, but he’s also his son and he’s just trying to help him survive.