Amour (Love)

amour-2012Amour has been at the top of a lot of lists this awards season. It is Oscar nominated for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Feature (that has only happened 5 times), Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign film. And yet, I wasn’t all that blown away by it. Austrian director Michael Haneke was also the festival darling in 2010 for his film The White Ribbon which left me cold. So maybe, even though I am the arty one, he is just not the director for me. Which is not to say that the film is bad. It is just that it is too long and there are quite a few things that felt entirely gratuitous.

It is a simple story of an octogenarian couple who are retired music teachers living out their days in a lovely apartment in Paris. Everything changes drastically when the wife has a stroke. The loving husband promises her upon her return from the hospital that he will never make her go back, thus becoming her nearly full-time nurse. The couple, George and Anne are played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, and their performances are really the reason to see the film. As an audience you see this lovely woman go from vibrant and functioning to unable to speak or move. And you see what her husband goes through to try and keep his promise, while losing the woman to whom he made it. Added to the mix is their grown daughter (Isabelle Huppert) who wants to come in and control the situation — to DO something about it. Of course, it is all futile. And we know from the opening scene, that it will all end badly.

At the end of the movie, you are left with more questions, and not in a good “it was deep and meaningful and I want to think about it for days” way, but a “what the hell just happened?” fashion. Throughout the film there are scenes that felt like the director was so enamoured of his own artistry and symbolism that he didn’t care if it made sense, or if it added to the story. One that irked me to no end was an interminable sequence of static shots of paintings, each held much longer than necessary and to my mind unrelated in any way to the story. The film could have been so much better with a lot more editing. I felt the same way at the end of his other film. “Be prepared for a disconcerting, depressing two and a half hours and a pretty unsatisfying ending,” was my take then. At least this one has at its heart a good story with interesting characters and wonderful acting. I went with my own octogenarian Mom, and she agreed with me that there are some wonderful scenes, and the actors are exceptional, but we just did not love it.


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