Sunday Video Essay: The Empathic Silences of Michael Haneke

Elsie Walker is writing a book about the sound tracks of Michael Haneke’s films called Hearing the Cinema of Michael Haneke (forthcoming with Oxford University Press). She co-created this video essay with Jacob T. Swinney, whose video essays for Slant, Fandor, and the Tribeca Film Festival are already world-renowned. This video essay (“Taking Time to Hear…”) is about sound as a kind of salvation. Haneke demands that we experience pain along with his characters but, contrary to many scholarly arguments that the director is a sadistic and cruel filmmaker, we explore how Haneke prompts us to experience a form of ultimate empathy.

*Warning, There are some major SPOILERS (or at least key moments from) half of Haneke’s filmography in the above video*

One thing that is beautifully done here, is that the text cards of the thesis are silent, and the clips from the film play out nearly so, this makes this a very different kind of video essay, and it’s a good one, albeit far too brief.

Cinecast Episode 273 – It’s TIFF 2012!

Thanks once again to Ryan McNeil of The Matinee for dropping back in for our huge TIFF recap (and almost spoiler-free!). Andrew sits in quiet solitude on the sofa, acting mainly as an audience member (admittedly, mostly fiddling with Pinterest and playing Tiger Woods Golf) with much amusement as Ryan and Kurt recap a large chunk of their TIFF experience. Sadly, due to the late hour of recording, there was no time left for The Watch List. We are happy, hoever to kick of the Fall Semester of homework assignments. The discussion gets pretty spirited where there is agreement and disagreement on many of the films screening at this years festival. Drop in again next week for a return to our usual programming: a lengthy discussion on PT Anderson’s The Master and responses to this first volley of homework assignments.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!



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TIFF 2012: Amour [review]

Michael Haneke wants to remind us all that we are going to die someday, and that the long days journey into night is probably not going to be pleasant one. He accomplishes this mightily in the heartbreaking and occasionally shocking, but always deliberate and controlling, Amour. From its single-shot intro of authorities discovering a neatly arranged corpse to the the final shot of Isabelle Huppert sitting quietly in a sunlit parlour, this is the director at the absolute top of his craft.

Is it manipulative and often unpleasant? Well that has been the directors modus operandi for as long as I’ve been watching his films, but compared to say Lars von Trier, Haneke has (almost) always taken the high road of not overtly pushing buttons for the sake of a quick reaction from the audience, but rather settling for a sense of slow inevitability that things are going to get worse. Consider the epilogue to The White Ribbon where all that has happened will be the generation who become the Nazis in 15 short years, or the menacing near-static shots in Cachéor poor Susanne Lothar (or Naomi Watts if you prefer the english version) struggling for many, many minutes with their unfortunate bondage in Funny Games.

With Amour he charts the decline in heath of cultured and feisty septuagenarian Anne (richly performed by Emmanuelle Riva) and the strain on the relationship with her long loving husband Jean-Louis Trintignant (bar none the best performance of year). That Haneke takes what can often be a cloying sentimentality (On Golden Pond) or guilt laden misery-fest (Away From Her) and first de-sensitizes it of show grief or treacle, turn it into a full blown horror film on every level is nothing short of astonishing Perhaps absolutely inevitable in the directors career, but it is every bit worthy of it’s Cannes Palm D’Or. That everyone can relate at some level or another to the suffering death of a family member is going to destroy both the brave and the curious, the aged and the young in what ever audience it finds. This is not an easy movie to watch unless you view it only from a craft perspective. Even watching it with most of the Toronto Press Corps, there was a fair share of sniffling, and rubbing of eyes. Whether it was empathy for what was up on screen, or the reminder that this is probably in store for many, will remain in the privacy of the mind of each viewer.
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Cinecast Episode 155 – Nards

Episode 155:
Wherein some of us try (really try!) to be positive about the clumsily derailed attempt at retro-love for The Wolfman character and story; it just does not seem to come out that way. The new film, with its two directors, two screenwriters and final schizophrenic outcome prove our undoing after 40 minutes of back and forth.

As a palette cleanser, we do get into quite the love-fest for anything and everything Akira Kurosawa. Especially a new brand-spanking, crisp-looking print of Rashomon, which is on tour right now. We have got some great DVD releases to mention this week as well as a teaser conversation on the micro-trend of film makers tackling movies that relate to the workings of the internet. And for those wanting to get their Cthulu, Steampunk and Serial-Killer geekery on, there is some discussion on China Meiville, Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko, specifically Perdido Street Station and Torso. Enjoy!

Thanks for listening and be sure to leave your own thoughts/lists in the comment section below!

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Bookmarks for January 21-23

  • Jean Simmon @ 80.
    “The English actress who made the covers of Time and Life magazines by the time she was 20 and became a major midcentury star alongside strong leading men like Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton and Marlon Brando, often playing their demure helpmates, died on Friday at her home in Santa Monica, California”
  • The Haneke MacGuffin: What is the Mystery?
    “There are open-ended films and there are closed ones, and Haneke prefers the former. He wants the audience to actively participate in watching and interpreting the film — and to be conscious that they are doing so. Both “Caché” and “The White Ribbon” are explicitly about (as I like to say) what goes through your head while you watch them.”
  • Vincenzo Natali’s Sundance Diaries
    “Sarah is radiant and brilliant. This is Sundance number seven for her and she wears it well. She carries the interviews with a relaxed intelligence and good humor that reminds me of how pleasurable it was to work with her on the set. Her best quip yet, “Splice is a film that is morally indefensible.” She says it with pride. Who would have thought that this sterling icon of Canadian cinema is so damn twisted? It fills me with a rare jolt of patriotism.”
  • World’s strangest movie theater snacks.
    While popcorn may be popular in movie theaters worldwide, there are still traditionalist holdouts in every country, where unusual local treats are still offered at the concession counter.
  • Ranting in Pictures
    An appreciation of a hybrid of the video essay and the mash-up — an emerging format that’s often more entertaining than the work it cannibalizes.
  • The Digital Distribution of Short Films (An Art in Itself)
    In our ever-evolving digital world, filmmakers push distribution farther by using the outlet that reaches the widest audience possible: the Internet.
  • Cinema’s Naughtiest Germans!
    Oh those Germans. And how well they die… on netflix! It seems half the films available for instant viewing are for, by or about that most egomaniacally insane of western nations, Deutschland! For some reason these Teutonic descendants of pillaging marauders and towheaded savages are just meant for the casual distance provided by netflix streaming. Let’s take a look:
  • Terry Gilliam talks Sherlock Holmes, Avatar and Dr. Parnassus
    he Onion A.V. Club and Terry Gilliam sit down for a little chat. Gilliam: “I keep saying reputations are kind of like dog shit that you step into as you’re walking down the street, and you can’t get it off your shoe the rest of your life.” Another Tidbit: Robert Duvall is replacing Jean Rochefort as Don Quixote in resurrected Gilliam project. (nice!)


You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button to your left. It looks remarkably similar to this:

Foreign Langauge Oscar Short List

After all the love on the festival circuit, I am surprised not to see Police, Adjective on the final short list for the Best Foreign Language Film nominees. Looks like Michael Haneke is the clear front-runner in this category with The White Ribbon, but this one is often very hard to predict. And yes, it is sad that Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother did not make the cut, as it is a very strong film with a fabulous central performance. Argentina’s entry, El Secreto de Sus Ojos, stars the great Ricardo Darín (Nine Queens, El Aura), who would have been in two films on this list if Spain’s entry, (no, it was not Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces) Fernando Trueba’s The Dancer and The Thief, had made the cut; which it did not.

AMPAS has narrowed it down to nine (below), with further pruning to five entries forthcoming.

El Secreto de Sus Ojos, Juan Jose Campanella – Argentina
Samson & Delilah, Warwick Thornton – Australia
The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner, Stephan Komandarev – Bulgaria
Un Prophete, Jacques Audiard – France
The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke – Germany
Ajami, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani – Israel
Kelin, directed by Ermek Tursunov – Kazakhstan, – Kazakhstan
Winter in Wartime, directed by Martin Koolhoven – The Netherlands
The Milk of Sorrow, directed by Claudia Llosa – Peru

Want to know what other countries’ entries missed out? Check out all the details at The Film Experience.

Review: The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon

A tightly scheduled film festival is admittedly the wrong circumstance under which a person should watch, let alone review, a film such as Michael Haneke’s Palme d’Or winning masterpiece, The White Ribbon. Even under optimal conditions one viewing is probably insufficient. This is a film that demands your attention, and in the tradition of earlier work (i.e. Cache) it provides few easy answers as to what you have just witnessed. One must be part detective piecing together the information onscreen to bring into relief the finer details of its moral parable.

In an idyllic village in the north of Germany, a series of inexplicably violent acts stir the inhabitants’ puritan assumptions, forcing them to confront the ugly side of the human spirit. Weaving together a cross-section of the village, focusing especially on the education of the youth, The White Ribbon is Dickensian in scope, and at times confusing as one tries to keep a tally of all the characters involved. The story is told as prologue to the fascist uprising in Germany, the sins of the parents ushering in a new generation of frenzied idealists. The eponymous ‘white ribbon’ is a kind of scarlet letter used by one family in the film to single out impure behavior. Once marked with a white ribbon tied around their upper arms, the children are supposed to be reminded of their sin in the hopes of cleansing themselves, a clear analogue to the WWII Star of David badges this generation will later help enforce. This example barely scratches the surface of what struggles, familial, religious, even sexual come to a boil in this frank portrait of puritan values in corrosion. Would you like to know more…?

Doomsday Marathon: Le Temps du Loup

Doomsday Movie Marathon

An unnamed apocalypse lies at the center of Michael Haneke’s very underrated Time of The Wolf. The unnamed, and unexplained disaster (hinted at one point to have poisoned the water) only adds to the anxiety and dread that shrouds both the characters and eventually engulfs the audience by seriously fucking with expectations. The film begins not unlike his controversial 1997 film Funny Games, with a young bourgeois family (the so called ‘million dollar family:’ husband, wife, one boy, one girl) driving to their isolated cottage somewhere in rural France. They find, while unpacking their gear, another family holed up in their very-much-private property. The other family, like dark doppelgängers (and foreigners to boot) quickly lay waste to the idyllic nuclear family, dispatching Dad and leaving Mom and the children to fend for themselves in the harsh world.

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