Amour is “a Masterpiece”

The hard-to-please movie reviewer at The New Republic, David Thomson, calls Amour the best movie of the year. Here’s Thomson:

Readers may say, “Well, you don’t like many films,” and they’d be right. I thought Prometheus was a catastrophe, Argo overrated, Anna Karenina risible, The Deep Blue Sea regrettable. “You didn’t even like The Master.” No, I didn’t, and I may be a mean-minded Grinch; or, maybe there just aren’t so many good films. But I suggested you see The Loneliest PlanetLincolnDream of a Life, and Oslo, August 31st—not that I think any of those are great. But now at the end of the year comes a masterpiece, not just the best of the year, but one of the best ever: Michael Haneke’s Amour. […]

Amour is plainly the most demanding and complete attempt at a film this year. In the same spirit, Haneke is the best director, and Trintignant and Riva should know they have each been in two great films: The ConformistHiroshima Mon Amour, and Amour itself.

What’s it about? A couple in their eighties:

Amour, […] is so simple in form that its great depth of feeling is easily measured. Amid the fatuous extravaganzas that are Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas, here is a picture made in one apartment with a handful of players. It runs two hours and it cost a little over 7 million euros. Georges and Anne are in their early eighties. They are retired music teachers. Anne has a brief episode of oblivion and then a stroke. The poise and stability of their life together is over; there are now two lives. There is nothing more to say, except that they do not win the lottery or chase each other through the streets of Paris in sleek Lamborghinis. Nor is there a miracle cure. In your eighties, you have no trust in cures.

It is a film about these two people. But they have a daughter who comes to see them, […]

Concerning the lead actors, Thomson writes the following:

Jean-Louis Trintignant has never played a music teacher (to the best of my recollection), but he was the person who had My Night with Maud (1969). He was A Man with a Woman (1966). He has made well over a hundred films, and in one of them, The Conformist (1970), he was Clerici, hunched, hatted, scuttling, his hands thrust in the pockets of his dark coat. He had made a great film already. Emmanuelle Riva has made less than 80 films […] She had made a great film, too: she is the French actress who wants to know about Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959). But neither of them has worked very much lately on screen, so it helps to see them through a daughter’s eyes, and to realize we have known them most of our lives, while understanding that they are altered and leaving.

So two players recollected from our past are suddenly older, and that transition cannot help but serve as our mirror, too. This is something the daughter sees, and that in turn helps us feel the nature of growing older. This daughter is played by Isabelle Huppert, who will be 60 next year, no matter that we can still see her pale glory in Heaven’s Gateor or Violette Noziere.

There are so many films and stories about love being thwarted: that agony goes from Romeo and Juliet to Brief Encounter. But love lived out until the last days is less common.

Sounds like an important film. Here’s Thomson again:

I would understand your reticence to watch a pained story about what has occurred with your parents and may await you. […]

The death of his [director Michael Haneke’s] own mother freed him to make this film (Haneke is himself 70), and the apartment he has made for it is a replica of the place where his parents lived. That is not a signal for sentimentality, much less coziness. Amour is as hard and bright as bone. The love it observes is intense, selfish, and nearly insane (these are the film’s greatest truths). It is a pact that excludes the daughter; it is far from being simply kind, or warm or feel-good.

I’m certainly intrigued. Here’s the trailer:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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