I'd like to spank the Academy

Amour (2012)

amourDirected by Michael Haneke

I wasn’t planning on taking this last week off. I had watched several of the movies and was reviewing my notes to write my posts when I got hit by a migraine that didn’t wear off for a few days. This meant that I got ahead in the audiobooks I’m currently listening to (Pinocchio: bizarre and pedantic; and Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: bizarre and amazing, in case you were curious), but it was not helpful for blogging. But it’s gone and I’m glad to be back writing again.

I’m not hugely familiar with French cinema, but I like to think that I’ve seen more French movies than the average American. The French movies I have seen tend to be move a little more slowly, be a little more introspective, and end much more depressingly than American movies, so I wasn’t expecting a happy love story about an elderly French couple when I watched this movie, no matter what the cover looked like. But Amour was so much sadder than I would have been able to anticipate, mostly because it was so heartbreakingly real.

So what’s the story? Anne and Georges are a happily married couple. They are elderly retired music teachers, but they still live in their beautiful apartment by themselves. They read books and go to concerts and see their friends and play Chopin on their beloved piano. All that changes when Anne has a stroke and the realities of old age intrude upon their lives.

The Good: The acting is superb. Emmanuelle Riva was so perfect as Anne that I forgot that she was an actress playing a stroke victim; I thought that I was truly watching a woman whose body and mind had failed her. Jean-Louis Trintignant was amazing as Georges, a man watching his beloved wife slip away, but stubbornly doing his best to fight for her and care for her.

The soundtrack for the movie was also perfect. The only music in the movie was music that the couple played themselves on the piano or that they  were actually listening to. It added to the realism of the film. Any musical score that had played in the background to underscore the emotions or tell the viewer what they were supposed to be feeling would have detracted from the emotion that the movie brings just from the subject matter and acting.

The Bad: Because the movie is so realistic and captures so perfectly the burden of caring for a disabled loved one, it drags sometimes. Taking care of sick people isn’t fun or glamorous, and sometimes it’s downright dull. Amour needed to be that way, but watching people do dull things isn’t a completely fascinating way to spend two hours. I will admit to nodding off a couple of times. (And no, I do not wish to hear any comments along of the lines of “if you think this is boring, go watch Transformers!” Life is boring sometimes, and watching someone else’s life is boring. This truth doesn’t detract from my intelligence or from the beauty of the movie.)

The Ugly: There is nothing lovely about physical and mental decline. It is a horrible thing to see. Just like life can be boring, life can be horrible. This movie is very hard to watch because of that. Amour is a stark reminder of reality and not for the faint of heart, for those who only wish to see movies about the young and happy. It’s a beautiful portrayal of a terrible subject. Although I’m glad that I saw it, I don’t think I will ever be able to watch it again.

Oscar Won: Best foreign language film of the year.

Other Oscar Nominations: Best motion picture of the year; best performance by an actress in a leading role (Emmanuelle Riva); best achievement in directing; best writing, original screenplay.

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