Monday, April 10, 2006

To The Victor The Spools

Michael Haneke's Cache (aka Hidden), Old Market Hall, Shrewsbury, Monday March 27 2006.

Cache won the award at Cannes 2005 for Best Direction for Michael Haneke, and has been installed as a favourite for the year by many UK critics since its' release here in January. The film finds comfortably-off middle-class couple Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche 'terrorised' by anonymous videotapes which show their house under surveillance, followed by postcards depicting bloody decapitations. So far, so Lost Highway, but whereas Lynch steered the latter film's plot into wild metaphysical horror, Haneke chooses to ground his mystery in more specifically political territory, namely France's national guilt over its treatment of Algeria in the '60s.

While Haneke should be lauded for tackling head-on issues such as race; class; terror; guilt and karma within the traditionally ineffable environs of the psychological thriller this unique strength also proves to be the film's fatal weakness. Whereas a surreal melodrama pretty much demands an ambiguous and provocative climax, a political thriller ultimately requires the film-makers to nail their colours to the mast by the time the credits roll. This Haneke refuses to do by supplying a final scene that is almost facetious in its determination to leave the story open to the optimum level of possible meanings. And yet, the film is a must-see for anyone with the patience to deal with its' deliberate pacing (more similar to Antonioni's Blow Up than to the Lynch films it's been compared to) and while it falls short of being a masterpiece for the reasons delineated above, it remains a masterclass in sustaining a tense, uneasy atmosphere, assisted by committed performances and brief but genuinely shocking acts of violence.


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