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Amour (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 9, 2013 by  



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“Amour” is a devastating, intelligent and unsettling masterpiece from filmmaker Michael Haneke.  There are many films that confront fear but when you confront an inevitable fear that many people will experience one day, you will need masterful performances to pull it off and both legendary talents Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva deliver!  Highly recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Les Films du Losange, X Filme Creative Pool, Wega Film, France 3 Cinema, ARD Degeto, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Westdeutscher Rundfunk. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Amour

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 127 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:85:1 aspect ratio, French 5.0 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics

RATED: PG-13 (Mature Thematic Material including a Disturbing Act and For Brief Language)

Release Date: August 20, 2013

Directed by Michael Haneke

Screenplay by Michael Haneke

Produced by Stefan Arndt, Margaret Menegoz

Co-Producer: Michael Andre, Alice Girard, Daniel Goudineau, Hans-Wolfgang Jurgan, Wolfgang Lorenz, Heinrich Mis, Bettina Reitz, Bettina Ricklefs

Executive Producer: Michael Katz, Margaret Menegoz, Uwe Schott

Cinematography by Darius Khondji

Edited by Nadine Muse, Monika Willi

Casting by Kris Portier de Bellair

Production Design by Jean-Vincent Puzos

Set Decoration by Susanne Haneke, Sophie Reynaud

Costume Design by Catherine Leterrier

Starring:

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges

Emmanuel Riva as Anne

Isabelle Huppert as Eva

Alexandre Tharaud as Alexandre

William Shimell as Geoff

Insightful. Original. Exquisite. Georges and Anne have known a lifetime of love within their intimate marriage. Though their bond has survived time’s test, it’s about to meet its greatest challenge. Acclaimed director Michael Haneke brings a performance tour-de-force to the screen in a film that exalts the beautiful, compassionate and courageous within us all.

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Some regard filmmaker Michael Haneke as one of the bleakest directors in modern cinema.

From films such as “Benny’s Video”, “Funny Games”, “Code Unknown”, “The Piano Teacher”, “Hidden” to name a few, his films have been known for its unsettling content and sometimes its shock value.

But having won multiple awards for his film, his most well-regarded film came in 2009 with “The White Ribbon” which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and multiple awards for “Best Film” including the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

But it’s his 2012 film “Amour” that would make Haneke become one of the most well-revered filmmakers by winning consecutive Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the Cesar Award for Best Film, the FIPRESCI Award Grand Prix  and many more awards with positive reviews from film critics worldwide.

For Michael Haneke, “Amour” is somewhat a deviation when compared to his previous films.  It’s his most personal film and it’s a film that he tailored for legendary French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (“Three Colors:Red”, “The Conformist”, “My Night at Maud’s”, “Z”).  One of the dream actors he had wanted to work with (the other being Marlon Brando) and felt that if he wanted to work with the actor, for this story, this film, it had to be now.

The film would also star one of the well-known names of French cinema, actress Emmanuel Riva (“Hiroshima, mon amour”, “Leon Morin, Priest”, “Three Colors: Blue”) and Isabelle Huppert, the lead actress seen in Haneke’s award-winning film “The Piano Teacher”.

And now the award-winning film “Amour” will be released on Blu-ray in August 2013 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Amour” is a film that begins with firemen breaking into a home in a Paris apartment and they find the corpse of an older woman with flowers all around her.

The film then goes back several months earlier as we are introduced to an elderly couple, Georges (portrayed by Jean-Louis Trintignant) and his wife Anne (portrayed by Emmanuelle Riva), both are retired piano teachers and have had a loving relationship for many decades

One morning during breakfast, while having a discussion, immediately Anne goes quiet in a catatonic state, her body staring at the distance.  Georges tries to talk to her, tries to damp her with a wet cloth but she is not responding.  As he gets dressed to take her to the hospital, he hears the faucet that he had turned on, being shut off.

He goes to check on her and it’s like nothing has happened.  He tells her to stop pulling pranks but she doesn’t know what he is talking about.  But when she goes to pour a cup of tea, she is unable to pour into her cup and immediately Georges knows that something is wrong.  It is revealed that Anne has suffered a stroke.

We find out through Georges conversation with daughter Eva (portrayed by Isabelle Huppert) that Anne had surgery for a blocked carotid artery but the surgery didn’t go well and now she is paralyzed on the right side of her body and must be confined to a wheelchair.

Anne asks Georges to make a promise and that is to never send her to the hospital ever again.  And as Georges becomes her caretaker, Anne knows that this is not the way she wants to live, let alone her husband having to be be there for her as a caretaker and tells him that she does not want to go on living.

But Anne suffers another stroke and now she suffers from dementia and is incapable of speaking clearly.  George continues to honor his promise to her but hiring a nurse for three days a week and having to take care of her becomes very difficult.

But when someone you love and their health is getting worse… For the love of that person, what would you do?

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VIDEO:

“Amour” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:85:1 aspect ratio).  The film was primarily shot on a set that resembled Michael Haneke’s parents and aunt’s room, with a green screen outside of the windows.  But because everything is shot indoors, lighting is somewhat dim.   You will not see the characters going outdoors in the sunlight but for the most part, as subdued the lighting is, the clarity of the picture is well-done.  Closeups of the characters faces show incredible detail and skin colors are natural.

I did not notice any artifacts or any banding but for the most part, picture quality for this film is very good.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“Amour” is presented in French 5.0 DTS-HD MA.  For a film of this nature, one should not expect surround sound use but because the film does feature classical music, may it be listened at a live performance or played through a stereo, the dialogue and music are crystal clear.

Subtitles are in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Amour” comes with the following special features:

  • Making of Amour – (24:42) Behind-the-scenes of “Amour”, interview with Michael Haneke and the cast.
  • Q&A with Michael Haneke – (38:55) Film Independent Q&A interview at LACMA with Michael Haneke.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (1:59) Theatrical trailer for “Amour”.

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As I finished watching Michael Haneke’s “Amour”, there is a part of me that scares me.  

It’s the inevitable of knowing that you and your spouse will grow old but also will face a health crisis or even death.  No one wants to think about such a thing but for any living human being, we know it’s inevitable.

May it be cancer, heart attack, stroke or Alzheimer’s, some of us may have experienced it through a family member or friend and wonder and hope that it’s something we don’t have to face.

But “Amour” is a film that makes you think about life and if you were with your spouse for decades until your old age, how much suffering can one tolerate or will you tolerate.

I think about my grandmother who died of a brain aneurism and seeing my grandfather, who loved my grandmother so much, slowly start to die because his wife was no longer there.  I see my grandfather now with Alzheimer’s and it’s hard for me because a few years ago, he was a man that was always discussing today’s news and his favorite sports teams but now, his memories are reduced to when he was younger but of all grandchildren, he remembers me.  But seeing how my grandmother has to take care of him and I know it’s hard for her.

This film reinforces emotions that a lot of us don’t want to think about, but we do.  And when we do, it’s a natural fear.  For those of us who are married, you want to live a long life with your loved one, but when one becomes sick, has cancer, has a stroke or some unfortunate health problem, we are defenseless.  Our love helps keep us strong for that person, to be for that person.  But yet, what if that person does not want you to see them suffering or slowly deteriorating?

For those who are familiar with Haneke’s films, there is always a pervasive, unsettling mood about each of his films. In fact, you can always expect his films to shock you in some sort of way. And with his award-winning film “Amour”, it is no exception.

A non-sentimental film about long-lasting love but how that love can be tested. What happens when an elderly couple face the greatest challenge in their lives. A film that is among Haneke’s most personal and one of his best, the film boasts magnificent performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.

Trintignant as Georges, the loving husband and caretaker who is torn by his love to take care of his wife Anne (Riva), while Anne before her second stroke knows that this is not the life that she wants to live. Paralyzed and having her husband having to now do everything for her.

But after her second stroke, its the performance that further makes us know that these two legendary talents have put on one of their most magnificent performances on screen.  Watching Riva play woman who is no longer able to talk, a woman who’s health can not get any better and just watching these two together is so heartbreaking, it was very hard to watch.  But both manage to take on the role of these characters with amazing efficacy.

But please do not be misguided by the title of the film and think this is a film about love or happy endings. The film is heartbreaking, bleak and even for me, quite difficult to watch. And even after watching it and typing this…it’s not a film that I don’t think I can forget. Unsettling… but definitely one of Haneke’s best.

As for the Blu-ray release, “Amour” features very good picture quality.  One should not expect vibrant colors as many shots are indoors and lighting is a bit subdued but the contrast and detail are very good on Blu-ray.  Lossless audio is restricted to dialogue and music but both are crystal clear.  You also get a few special features included as well.

Overall, “Amour” is a devastating, intelligent and unsettling masterpiece from filmmaker Michael Haneke.  There are many films that confront fear but when you confront an inevitable fear that many people will experience one day, you will need masterful performances to pull it off and both legendary talents Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva deliver!

A highly recommend film and Blu-ray release but I strongly caution viewers that it may be difficult for some to watch.

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