Friday, January 11, 2013



Amour Here is the law of Mother Nature: at some point in our lives, we have to encounter the ultimate death, often accompanied by unfortunate illness. Mortality is the inevitable to every life. Yet, in reality, we generally tend to avoid the unpleasant subject. We fantasize that we can elude the last stage of life as long as we are able to, until death knocks on the door. That's not the case for renowned Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke. He confronts this very devastating subject head-on in his striking new film "Amour" (Austria/France/Germany 2012 | in French | 127 min.). This slow paced, impeccably precise, beautifully tender, and fascinatingly arresting film tells a poignant story. Although it's a love story, it is perhaps the least suitable film for a movie date on a Valentine's Day.

The film's protagonists are an elderly couple Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who are in their eighties. After a successful career of teaching music, they comfortably enjoy their retirement life and each other's company in their Parisian apartment. One morning, Georges notices Anne acting strange. A doctor's visit confirms that Anne has a stroke. However, an operation not only doesn't improve her condition, it makes the matter worse—Anne becomes partially paralyzed and can no longer take care of herself. She becomes gravely ill and she is not going to get better.

However, Georges promises to grant Anne's wish not to take her back to the hospital. Dragging his clumsy feet, he gently takes care of Anne the best he can, with occasional help from nurses he hires. Anne's deteriorating health poses great challenge to Georges, but he firmly declines help from their physically and emotionally distant daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert). He is determined to cherish the decades of love with Anne in his own way, and to maintain their dignity during the last chapter of their lives.

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva in AMOUR

Unlike Michael Haneke's previous films that often contain surprising and shocking violence ("Funny Games", "Caché"), in this film he quietly and masterfully unfolds a heartbreaking love story and elaborates a scenario that we can all resonate. We all might have a family member or a loved one like Anne. You can't help but thinking what you would do if you are in Georges's shoes. Unexpectedly, Georges suddenly becomes a caregiver even he is a fragile aging man himself. He tries to ease Anne's concern by persuading her: "imagine you are in my situation." But who would want to image to be in that terrible situation? Certainly not Anne.

There is no easy solution, there is no easy way out, and there is no alternative route to take, but there is much love. The tenderness between the two aging adults is absolutely compelling and deeply touching. Two legendary French actors Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant give a magnificent performance as Anne and Georges, even it's often heart-wrenching to watch.

After winning the top-prize Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the film is nominated for five Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Emmanuelle Riva), Best Original Screenplay (Michael Haneke), Best Director (Michael Haneke), and Best Foreign Language Film. I have no doubt that it is marching its way to at least receive the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the 85th Academy Awards.

"Amour," a Sony Pictures Classics release, opens on Friday, January 11, 2013 at Bay Area theaters.


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