Amour ***** (out of five)
It’s tempting to go overboard writing about Amour: “Master movie-maker Michael Haneke masterminds a masterclass in masterful masterpiece making!” But the fact is, it’s pretty much a perfect film on every level. Structurally assured, perfectly acted, and deeply moving, it tells a simple tale, and in doing so examines the absolute extremes of its theme, which is also its title: Love.
The central dramatic question is straight-forward: what do you do when your lifelong partner starts to rapidly deteriorate before you do? Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play George and Anne, two sophisticated, retired music teachers in their eighties. At the beginning of the film they are still sprightly, going out to see a former student’s performance, taking the tram home. They are as we may all want to be in our dessert days, namely, still deeply in love, and capable of being all the other needs to fill out their days. But then Anne has a stroke, and from there, Georges must face her deterioration as he himself remains healthy.
No more of the plot should be revealed, because it is going on Georges’ journey that forms the film, and it is sublimely told. Hanneke, who wrote the screenplay, has realized that, rather than sequences and acts, this is a story of moments, and he chooses all the right ones to portray his subject with absolute thematic depth. They have a daughter (Isabelle Huppert, perfect); she’s going to “want them to do more”: that’s a moment we need to see, and we see it. Likewise, at one point Georges has to fire a nurse: it’s a moment filled with so much to say about what it is to grow old, it’s astonishing.
But the most moving scenes are those when it’s just Georges and Anne alone. Both actors give perfect natural performances; it’s Georges’ story but Anne, of course, has to deteriorate; they both deserve all the awards and praise they’ve been receiving (Riva is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar; Trintignant should have been for Best Actor).
If all this sounds depressing, it’s actually not. It’s sad, of course, but that’s different. It’s also astoundingly thought-provoking and gorgeously shot. It’s beautiful. See it with someone you love.
Movie 43 * (out of five)
Movie 43, a set of gross-out sketches padded with a silly overarching story and performed by a galaxy of A List Stars, is depressing. Shoddily made but, worse, absolutely appallingly written from first sketch to last, it’s a complete fiasco, a dreadful, obnoxious, deeply embarrassing disaster from start (Hugh Jackman has testicles hanging from his neck!) to finish (Josh Duhamel’s cat anally pleasures himself while raping a teddy bear!) My hopes that it just might be so over-the-top it would work were dashed in the first minutes, and it never got better. Besides the dreadful writing of the sketches (sorry, did I mention that this movie is horribly written?), these actors are not Will Ferrell, Jack Black and Steve Carrell. This is obviously all of them, in a sense, screen-testing to become Big Screen Comedy Stars, and, let’s be honest, Kate Winslet, Halle Berry, Richard Gere, Dennis Quaid (he’s the worst of all) – that’s not gonna happen.
To be honest, I laughed three times, but once was just at the sheer idea that the “joke” I’d just seen was even meant to be a joke, so that doesn’t really count. The movie stinks; it’s even at times legitimately offensive. Horrible. Avoid like the plague it is.