Understanding Michael Haneke: Caché (2005)

Caché (Hidden) (2005)

All throughout his career Michael Haneke has been busy putting a scalpel to the wealthiest classes and flaying them methodically – layer after layer – to expose their flesh and the intricately woven network of delicate cardiovascular vessels pumping their azure blood. However, while doing so he has also been struggling with his own perspective and, hence, some of his work may give an impression that he has been engaged in this delicate surgical work whilst mounted atop a high horse of immovable moral authority. This is not the case here. Released in 2005, Caché proves unequivocally that at least for the moment Haneke was able to dismount and deliver his most cunning experiment in deconstructing the bourgeoisie, thus proving to be the pinnacle of his filmmaking career in my view. 

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: The Killing (1956)

Stanley Kubrick referred to his 1956 noir caper The Killing as his first mature film. However, as Roger Ebert famously pointed out, it may be inappropriate to single it out as some kind of a fork in the road, let alone a watershed moment that set Kubrick on a trajectory to the pantheon of greatest filmmakers in history. Just as Ebert suggested, without the directing credit listed at the beginning of the movie, it would be very hard to trace it back to Kubrick. 

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Greenland (2020)

I have to admit that when I was sitting down to watch Greenland, I wasn’t really expecting much. In fact – I have to come clean – I was more or less looking forward to ‘veging out’ on a Saturday night while looking at Gerard Butler (for whom I do have a bit of a soft spot) do his utmost to save his family from an impending cataclysm.  

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Malcolm & Marie (2021)

When Assassination Nation received a decidedly warm reception in Sundance 2018, Sam Levinson – who wrote and directed it – most likely did not anticipate his moment in the sun was going to be short-lived. Despite a generally positive critical consensus (with a few scathing takedowns peppered in the mix as well), the film did not become a hit with audiences when it was finally released theatrically across the world. People simply did not turn up to watch a heavily stylized social satire attempting to take a snapshot of America of its time. And something tells me Levinson took it personally.  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Time of the Wolf (2003)

The term ‘time of the wolf’ finds its roots in Nordic folklore and in the most basic terms it denotes a time of the night just before the dawn. Ingmar Bergman once summarized it as a “the hour between night and dawn, when most people die, sleep is deepest, nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their worst anguish, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.” This note was an accompaniment to the screenplay to Hour of the Wolf, his 1968 psychological horror with Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.  

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Earwig and the Witch (2020)

I sincerely believe that the release of Earwig and the Witch was supposed to be a momentous occasion because – after decades of adhering to a traditional hand-drawn style of animation – Studio Ghibli was finally making a move in the world of 3D computer-generated graphics. What is more, it could be read as a landmark strategic shift or maybe even a ‘changing of the guard’ as the studio’s first ever CG-animated project was helmed by Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki himself.  

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: Killer’s Kiss (1955)

There is an entire universe of difference between Fear And Desire, Kubrick’s feature debut, and Killer’s Kiss, his sophomore effort. Although one could see the filmmaker’s potential in the former film, especially exemplified in aggressive editing, confident staging of static shots and the way the narrative goes about exploring its central themes, many choose to see it as a failure whose reputation is solely derived from the eventual trajectory of Kubrick’s filmmaking career. In other words, it takes some real effort to see past the film’s blatant flaws in craftsmanship and occasional instances of narrative meandering marring the progression of the story in order to appreciate it as more than a stepping stone. 

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: Swamp Thing (1982)

Long before what we now understand as the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies, the pickings were slim for fans keen on seeing their favourite spandex-clad superheroes on the silver screen. Richard Donner’s Superman had only opened in 1978 and the public at large was most likely not ready to embrace comic books as a serious source material for cinematic treatment. Granted, The Incredible HulkCaptain America and others featured prominently on TV, but I don’t think I’d be too far off the mark if I assumed these works were never taken as anything more than entertainment for children.  

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Songbird (2020)

A simple google search of the word ‘escapism’ will quickly reveal the following encylopaedic definition: 

“Escapism is mental diversion from unpleasant or boring aspects of daily life, typically through activities involving imagination or entertainment. Escapism may be used to occupy one’s self away from persistent feelings of depression or general sadness” (Wikipedia) 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: The Piano Teacher (2001)

I have to say that The Piano Teacher is an interesting specimen in Michael Haneke’s filmography, especially considering the entirety of what came before it, in that it is both a continuation of the journey throughout his longstanding thematic interests and a breath of fresh air at the same time. This is particularly with regard to Haneke’s proclivity towards detaching himself emotionally from the matter at hand and assuming the role of a cynical jester who takes pleasure from the simple act of torturing the viewer, which is almost completely absent from this film. 

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