'Amour' at the end of life
Just when one thought that France's "Rust and Bone" set the mark for depressing cinema, there's "Amour."
"Amour" was nominated for five Oscars, picture, actress (Emmanuelle Riva), director (Michael Haneke), original screenplay (Haneke) and foreign-language film (Austria's entry). The film won the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival.
In "Amour," Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Riva) are retired music teachers who are in their 80s. After Anne has successive strokes, Georges promised her that he will not place here in a long-term care facility.
A nurse helps several days a week at Georges' and Anne's large Parisian apartment. However, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), their daughter, who is also a musician, expresses growing concern about the personal-care demands placed on her father, who still chooses to more or less go it alone. His decision leads to tragic consequences, rendering the film's title highly-ironic.
Haneke ("The White Ribbon") directs in a business-like, tidy and economical fashion. It is almost as though we are with the couple in real time.
Trintignant is a pensive, morose but not uncaring presence. You can see the demands of his decision to care for his wife taking its toll on his mental and physical well-being. He is in nearly every scene of the film in a very demanding role that also deserved an Oscar nomination.
Riva is riveting as a woman who burns bright as a candle until the life is nearly snuffed out of her. Her skill is superb in creating empathy whereby the physicality is limited because of the deteriorated condition of the character she portrays.
Those of us who have coped with or provided assistance to a family member or friend facing terminal illness, will empathize with the characters and circumstances portrayed in "Amour."
While the writing, direction and acting in the film is excellent, I found the film to be unrelentingly dour, harrowing and excruciating. It really can't be recommended as "entertainment."
On the basis of a cautionary tale, as a plea for expert and well-paid home-health care and as billboard for the advantages of a long-term health-care facility or hospice care, then "Amour" bears viewing.
"Amour," MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language; Genre: Drama, Romance; French and English, with English subtitles; Run Time: 2 hours, seven minutes; Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.
Credit Readers Anonymous: "Amour" was filmed in Paris, France.
Box Office, Feb. 22:: "Identity Thief" stole back into No. 1, with $14 million, $93.6 million, three weeks, keeping Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's "Snitch" opening at No. 2, with $13 million.
3. "Escape from Planet Earth," $11 million, $35.1 million, two weeks; 4. "Safe Haven," $10.6 million, $48. million, two weeks; 5." A Good Day to Die Hard," $10, million, $51.8 million, two weeks; 6. "Dark Skies," $8.8 million, opening; 7. "Silver Linings Playbook," $6 million, $107.4 million, 15 weeks; 8. "Warm Bodies," $4.7 million, $58.2 million, four weeks; 9. "Side Effects," $3.5 million, $25.2 million, three weeks; 10. "Beautiful Creatures," $3.4 million, $16.3 million, two weeks
Unreel, March 1:
"Jack the Giant Slayer," PG-13: Bryan Singer directs the reimagining of the classical fairy tale in which a gateway to another world has been added to the plotline. The fantasy-adventure film stars Nicholas Hoult, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Bill Nighy.
"Stoker," R: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Dermot Mulroney star in the mystery-thriller about a charming, mysterious man who has ulterior motives.
"21 and Over," R: A medical student celebrates his 21st birthday with two friends on the night before his big exam.
"The Last Exorcism Part II," PG-13: Ashley Bell and Julia Garner star in the horror film about an evil force.
"Phantom," R: A Russian submarine captain leads a covert mission. The thriller stars Ed Harris and David Duchovny.
Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site, tnonline.com, and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Lehigh Valley Community Public Radio, WDIY 88.1 FM, wdiy.org. Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@ tnonline.com and on Facebook.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes