BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, February 15, 2013
2/15/13 at 7:02 AM
Rarely is a film so honest and authentic and uncompromising in its depiction of life's most fragile moments, but "Amour" truly is love in all its many forms.
When a husband looks into the vacant eyes of his wife, whose stroke has left her unreachable in the way that a pair of people in their 80s have grown accustomed, this is love in the face of the inevitable.
"For better" has defined their marriage; "for worse" has now arrived. The "in sickness" portion of their relationship will dominate their remaining days, which are now numbered.
Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis
Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert
2 hours, 7 minutes
PG-13 (mature thematic
material including a disturbing act,
(on a scale of zero to
in French with English subtitles
"Amour" won the Palme d'Or, which is the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and it is the only best-picture nominee at next week's Academy Awards to yet show in Tulsa, with four other nominations: best actress, director, original screenplay and foreign-language film.
The picture is gut-wrenching and richly rewarding. It will break your heart, and it will make you realize the depth of commitment that is formed over six decades together.
It can have the detached feel of a documentary, and it can be deeply soulful in detailing human connections.
As we meet Anne and Georges, retired music teachers living in a spacious apartment in Paris, it is clear their marriage is one of closeness, mutual respect and a shared love of culture as they return from a piano concert.
And then everything changes. Director Michael Haneke (the Austrian provocateur of "Cache" and "The White Ribbon") shows the couple speaking in an opening scene about burglaries in their apartment building, but it is something more precious than any material item that is about to be stolen from them.
All it takes is one breakfast - in which Anne's initial stroke leaves her unable to account for a five-minute gap in which her husband tried to wake her from a staring stillness - to know how suddenly life can change.
Haneke's script is a by-the-numbers tale of a loved one's decline (a bit too strict at times, bringing in that documentary vibe) but the work always feels honest due to veteran performances from Emmanuelle Riva (at 85, she's perhaps best-known for her first film role, in 1959's "Hiroshima, mon amour") and Jean-Louis Trintignant (the 82-year-old was the star of Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Conformist" in 1970 and a key player in films ranging from "Z" to "...And God Created Women").
Riva is remarkable, and not only in the later depiction of the ravages of a stroke. When a second one leaves her functions devastated, her body language tells us all we need to know about how our own bodies will betray us in physical decline and how this new reality becomes our life.
Without saying a word, Riva communicates clearly in ways that we recognize: "I don't want to get worse" (so end this, my dear, if you must), or "I don't want to be pitied" (so don't bring in people who will, and don't let anyone see me when you know I would only feel humiliated).
Riva is deservedly nominated for best actress, and there should be equal raves for the performance of Trintignant, who is a revelation as a frustrated and mentally tired man. He gives Georges a calm, controlled nature that dictates his affection for his beloved, as well as his resignation.
He is a rock for her, protecting and loving her as his partner in life reverts to the actions of a "terrible two" toddler by the end.
"Amour" is not what you might call an "easy watch," but showing their marriage during the "in health" years is more escapist fare, while Haneke shows us "in sickness" to reflect humanity in its purest form.
Original Print Headline: 'Amour' is honest depiction of love's trials
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
Emmanuelle Riva is remarkable in "Amour," relating the ravages of strokes on her character, Anne. Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy