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Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00

'Amour' Conveys Love and Compassion

'Amour' Conveys Love and Compassion www.sonyclassics.com/amour
Written by Diane Carson
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  • Director: Michael Haneke
  • Dates: Opens February 1, 2013

Writer/director Michael Haneke's masterpiece "Amour" is as honest, unsentimental, and carefully observed as it is demanding of audience patience and empathy. Retired octogenarians Anne and Georges enjoy quiet, pleasant lives. They know each other's subtle gestures and daily habits, they mirror each other. And then, one morning at breakfast, Anne has a transient stroke.Writer/director Michael Haneke's masterpiece "Amour" is as honest, unsentimental, and carefully observed as it is demanding of audience patience and empathy. Retired octogenarians Anne and Georges enjoy quiet, pleasant lives. They know each other's subtle gestures and daily habits, they mirror each other. And then, one morning at breakfast, Anne has a transient stroke.

Their lives change from that moment as Georges becomes Anne's caregiver with Anne's condition slowly but perceptibly worsening. After the opening scene (a piano recital in a crowded and lovely concert hall), "Amour" observes Anne and Georges only in their Paris apartment. Daughter Eva drops in a couple times, the concierge and neighbors bring supplies, and their previous pupil Alexandre (in reality pianist Alexandre Tharaud) who performed in the introductory minutes visits. Other than that, Georges copes as best he can with Anne's increasingly debilitating condition. Very little and yet everything happens. Each detail carries a potent, telling impact, as anyone who has cared for a declining elder knows.

Haneke's cinematic style complements his minimalist content, that is, he doesn't move the camera for minutes on end, seldom cuts to close-ups from long shots, and prefers long takes with sparse dialogue and no atmospheric music. We're observers invited to inhabit and contemplate the last days of this beautiful couple who, as the title suggests, love each other as difficult as it is to courageously face the situation--Anne's downward spiral.

Iconic actors Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant deliver exquisite performances. Their glorious faces are emotional human landscapes, their eyes attentive, probing, offering each other comfort. Legends themselves, Riva and Trintignant express volumes every second if we only pay careful attention. As their daughter, Isabelle Huppert communicates Eva's neediness and narcissism, a restrained indictment of a very different generation, a woman with problems with her British husband and little time for or understanding of her parents.

"Amour" won the prestigious Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival and Haneke the Golden Globe for best director for this mature, amazing masterpiece. It's rare to have a film with such heart, such restraint, and such beauty. In French with English subtitles at a Landmark Theatre.

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