Saturday, February 23, 2013

AMOUR (2012)

Rated : PG-13

Stars: Jean-Louis Tritignant,  Emmanuelle Riva,  Isabelle Huppert
Director: Michael Haneke
Genre:  Art House/Drama

The enduring image I will always have of Jean-Louis Tritignant is that of the race car driver in  the superb 1966 film,  A Man And A Woman . So there's a disconcerting aspect to seeing him onscreen today as an Octogenarian (which he is) in Amour,  the Oscar nominated drama from director Michael Haneke. 

Time happens.

And as Time (that old gypsy man) drags us kicking and screaming down this one-way street,  most of  those who do not meet a premature death will eventually end up like the Parisian couple Georges (Tritignant) and Anne, (Emmanuelle Riva) in this movie. That's stark realism, man. And that's what Amour deals us. It's a stiff dose of here's-your-worst-nightmare-only-it's-real--that thing we never signed up for...old age and decrepitude.    

Georges and Emmanuelle are conversing inside their apartment one day when she suddenly checks out...face gone blank and unresponsive. She's had a stroke and, to make a long synopsis short, goes downhill from there. Now she's partially paralyzed and bedridden, and Georges is her caregiver. 
He gets to do all the fun stuff like haul her into the bathroom and prop her up on the toilet. At some point it's  just down to changing her diaper. This is the first two-thirds of the movie. 

Now anybody who has had an elderly and/or infirmed parent has been there, done that. So why rub our faces in it here? Because we are spared none of it in Amour . It  goes on and on until you are ready to throw up your hands and say what's the point, and just about then you get the point (or at least I did) that what had initially appeared to be the wife's story is actually the husband's story. The metamorphosis  he undergoes from compassionate caregiver to...well...something else. And we need all of the unpleasant business leading up to it to properly put ourselves in his shoes and ask what would we do. 

Nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture, I'd not be surprised at all if the 85 year-old Riva takes the Best Actress prize--her challenging performance here is that good. Let's say at least that she deserves it, but you know how these things go. (We're not all that far removed from those idiots who excoriated  the French for having the intelligence and the foresight--and maybe just the bad taste of experience in their mouths--to not go along with Dubya's little foray into Iraq. How much of an anti-French hangover still lingers is anybody's guess.)

Suffice it to say that Amour--despite the title--is not a date movie. I pity the unwitting guy who took his best girl to see it on Valentine's day. I wonder who she's with now. 
Grade:  B +