I am not an admirer of director Michael Haneke's work, and this revealing documentary points up many of his deficiencies. Obviously a sycophant will react differently, but by discussing his motivations and even the "meaning" of "Caché", this emperor has made transparent his new clothes.
I've seen all but one of Haneke's feature films, dating back to watching his debut SEVENTH CONTINENT at a MoMA screening over 20 years ago. Of these, I thought THE WHITE ROSE was thought-provoking and nearly a masterpiece (I quibbled quite a bit with Haneke's cheating at times in the narration), and have disliked all the rest.
In Yves Montmayeur's behind-the-scenes documentary plus a companion interview piece by Serge Toubiana, Haneke almost spoon-feeds to the viewer most of the secrets and interpretations of "Caché". But it is his pompous, always self-serving pronouncements about other filmmakers that are disturbing.
There are a couple of dream sequences, and he notes that he is no good at filming them (yeah, right!). Acknowledging Bunuel as the master, he claims even Bergman's handling of dreams on screen was terrible. Mr. Haneke, tell it to the marines.
More wide-ranging, he is dismissive and downright nasty concerning "mainstream" filmmakers who tie up a narrative neatly, sending the theatrical audience home satisfied with loose ends tied up. Haneke prefers to make most crucial matters ambiguous ("just like in real life"), never providing any easy answers (except, contradictorily, in this documentary interview), and to force the viewer to think. He confuses issues on purpose (my take, not his of course) and leaves things hanging.
I found this discussion by Haneke to be a load of b.s. While straight-facedly maintaining that his writing of dialog "is easy and automatic", the situations, motivations and relationships he presents in "Caché" are frequently unbelievable and defy suspension of disbelief. Unlike the "manipulators" (think Hitchcock as the king), by the time he delivers his enigmatic non-ending, and begs almost every question raised over the course of the preceding 2 hours, Haneke has turned off this viewer's involvement rather than pricking me to ponder weighty issues.
In his interview Daniel Auteuil makes some key points, not the usual "rah rah" drivel of these "what a great film we collaborated on" featurettes that have become de rigeur for DVD releases of feature films. Auteuil is one of the supreme actors of his generation and has given dozens of great performances, my personal favorites being those in UN COEUR EN HIVER and GIRL ON THE BRIDGE. He notes that for Haneke he gives the director just what he wants, doesn't over-think his character, and is purely professional.
That's the problem: Haneke is (described here as a neurotic) a perfectionist who does not inspire his actors but is rather (in reality) much more like Hitchcock than Bergman, to cite just the previously mentioned icons. Auteuil and fellow pro Juliette Binoche deliver the goods, but give the viewer none of the complexity or depth they usually generate for better, less didactic directors who are interested in artistic collaboration rather than Haneke's brand of solipsism. His producer Margaret Menegoz (long-associated with the work of Eric Rohmer and Barbet Schroeder) applauds Haneke's single-mindedness and unwillingness to compromise his art, but I question that art at its fundamental core.
Is Haneke revealing hard truths about man's brutal and negative side -his unwillingness to face facts when suppression and repression of the truth are so common? Or is Haneke yet another negativist like on our shores Neil LaBute, who panders to that sliver of pseudo-intellectual "film festival/art house" (both anachronisms) audience who are easily impressed by downer cinema? I think the latter is true.
Haneke's lengthy analysis of the controversial final shot of "Caché" merely adds fuel to the fire -he is proud to have toyed with the viewer, but for me "Caché", its half-baked script and especially its intentional non-ending was just another idiotic Shaggy Dog exercise, not even up to the level of the audience-insults fomented so successfully (for a similar audience) by the Coen Bros.
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