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Thread: Caché by Haneke

  1. #1
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    Caché by Haneke

    CACHÉ (Hidden)

    Directed by Michael Haneke (2005)

    Shown at the Vancouver Film Festival, Austrian director Michael Haneke's spine-tingling Hitchcock-like thriller, Cache is a metaphor for the denial of French responsibility for the treatment of Algerians in its colonial past and its current treatment of immigrants. The first five minutes of Caché shows a placid street scene outside of a suburban Parisian home with people coming and going long into the night. It is not until several minutes into the film, however, that we realize we are watching videotape sent by unknown persons to the family of Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil). The tape is wrapped in a drawing showing blood coming out of the side of the mouth of a young boy

    Haneke is masterful in showing the murk that is hidden beneath the outward calm of our comfortable middle-class lives, a recurring theme in many of his films. Here, Georges is the host of a literary TV talk show and his wife Anne (Juliet Binoche) works at a publishing house. Their complacent lives are filled with dinner parties, intellectual conversations, and general indifference to the outside world, a world that only intrudes when the TV news tries to get their diverted attention. Georges is disturbed by the tape, even more so than Anne, but he only contacts the police after a second tape shows up. Predictably, the police refuse to do anything unless the family is under direct attack. The mystery of who sent the tapes increases as Haneke builds an unrelenting atmosphere of imminent danger in a low-key manner without the use of foreboding music or Twilight Zone effects.

    As nerves become frayed, tension erupts between husband and wife and explodes into acrimony when their twelve-year old son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky), stays at a friend's house all night without letting them know, bringing up fears that he has been kidnapped by the stalkers. Soon, another tape reveals a stone farmhouse where Georges grew up and where his invalid mother still resides. His visit with his mother (Annie Girardot) brings back long buried memories and Georges is forced to confront a terrible secret hidden since he was six years old. He tells Anne that he has a hunch who is behind the threatening tapes but refuses to tell her who he is thinking of, prompting her to deplore the lack of trust in their relationship.

    He visits an Algerian man named Majid (Maurice Bénichou) whose parents worked for Georges' family during the French colonial repression in Algeria in the 1960s but Majid, unruffled by the accusation, denies having anything to do with the tapes. The full extent of Georges' treatment of Majid when they were both children slowly begins to emerge, however, leading to a shocking if somewhat elusive conclusion. Though the whodunit is actually less important than its implications, Caché is not a polemic or a political tome. It is a superbly crafted, entertaining, and challenging film that makes us painfully aware of the consequences of the lack of individual responsibility and creepy paranoia of modern life and of Western arrogance toward people considered inferior. It is Haneke's most accessible and enduring achievement.

    GRADE: A
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  2. #2
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    Not much to add. As usual, you do a fine job of drawing out all the themes without revealing too much. Excellent review, Howard.

  3. #3
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    Originally posted by Chris Knipp
    Not much to add. As usual, you do a fine job of drawing out all the themes without revealing too much. Excellent review, Howard.
    Thanks very much. Haven't seen you around lately. I guess you must be living the fast life in New York.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

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    I'm in Paris now.

  5. #5
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    Well sorry to be digging up corpses here but this film FINALLY premiered in Chicago this past week. I actually missed the first few minutes of it (traffic is always bad) but I know the shot you're referring to at it's opening. I'm no expert on Haneke's work, but this film is brilliant in it's minimalism. Everything is at a distance here, shots last longer than you think, and you're never quite sure if its going to be revealed as another tape or if it's actually the film. This type of potential confusion works wonders. I'm also amazed at how they were able to shoot in a dark bedroom at night with no lights, yet you could see what was happening, lord bless the evolution of digital cameras. At least one geniune shock that had the whole theater gasp and leave their mouths agape. In general a damn fine film. From what I've read much more is revealed on a second viewing, so perhaps I should hold off on any definite judgement until it arrives on DVD.

  6. #6
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    I like your review. I'm using some quotes from it to comment further or bring up issues, not to disagree.

    Originally posted by Howard Schumann
    Cache is a metaphor for the denial of French responsibility for the treatment of Algerians in its colonial past and its current treatment of immigrants.

    No doubt. I also think Georges and Anne's differing reaction to the threat as possibly allegorical of contrasting responses to terrorism. The vagueness of the material requires the viewer to fill-in the blanks to complete the story and ascribe meaning to the material. It's not to much of a stretch to figure the film has something to say about the invasion of personal privacy and that, given the resolution, Hidden identifies a certain generational friction within a segment of French society. The film is open-ended enough to sustain different conclusions depending on the viewer, but the deliberate mention of the massacre of Algerian protestors at the hands of French police cannot be dismissed.

    Georges is disturbed by the tape, even more so than Anne, but he only contacts the police after a second tape shows up.

    At this point, Georges says he went to the police, but I didn't believe him. We have clear visual evidence of his contacting the cops only after Pierrot is "lost", which happens further into the narrative.

    The full extent of Georges' treatment of Majid when they were both children slowly begins to emerge, however, leading to a shocking if somewhat elusive conclusion.

    Several critics including my local daily's are actually provinding instruction to readers along the lines of "during the final scene look to the lower left for a clue to the mystery". A few viewers during my theatrical screening appear to have missed it completely. I don't think those watching at home on dvd would be able to tell who are those two meeting on the steps of the school. If anything, the conclusion is rather optimistic about the future of race relations in France, wouldn't you say?

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    Re: Caché by Haneke

    Originally posted by Howard Schumann
    Cache is a metaphor for the denial of French responsibility for the treatment of Algerians in its colonial past and its current treatment of immigrants.
    A few months ago I probably would’ve argued with the latter part of your statement, but after what recently transpired in Paris, it became obvious that things aren’t what they used to be. The riots weren’t merely caused by the “accidental” death of a couple of Arabs in police custody; they resulted from a deeper sense of injustice borne of a variety of issues that have come to the forefront since 9/11.

    The full extent of Georges' treatment of Majid when they were both children slowly begins to emerge, however, leading to a shocking if somewhat elusive conclusion.

    That is an excellent point, and the final shot is just one example of it. Haneke has stayed away from these sorts of shenanigans since Funny Games, so this was disappointing to see.

    But, more importantly, I wanted to get your thoughts on a matter I’m still contemplating. It relates to the foundation on which Haneke ultimately charts his protagonist’s guilt, and that of course branches off into bigger and more pertinent issues. Basically, would he have been better off if Georges and Majid were a bit older and thus somewhat more aware of their differences when they first met? Because children can be cruel, and Georges probably would’ve done the same if the boy was of any other color or nationality. I think a stronger back-story could’ve helped in this case because Haneke eventually tries to connect some rather far-reaching dots.

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