Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

February 5, 2013

CALLERI: Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva shines in 'Amour'

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Too many filmmakers treat the elderly with appalling disrespect. The old are depicted as crude caricatures or comic buffoons. Not screenwriter-director Michael Haneke, whose outstanding movie this is. He shatters what has been an accepted cinematic notion of aging and sickness, showing us what has long been ignored in movies: illness isn't always dramatic. The end sometimes comes slowly, with loved ones holding onto memories of sweeter times, compelled to make decisions that shatter illusions of control.

Haneke, Riva, and Trintignant show us that an intelligent and vibrant person becoming helpless when old is just as heart-wrenching an experience as if the person were young. It is an indignity. Sad and discomforting and melancholy.

"Amour" also touches on what adult children will face when their elderly parents slowly begin to fade. George and Anne have a daughter, Eva, who lives away from Paris. Isabelle Huppert, another great French film star, brings a wealth of experience to her role as a woman worried about both her mother and father. She doesn’t see the passage of time as something inevitable. She wants to know the reasons for her mother's condition and fixates on that. She needs to find fault, to blame someone. You want her to consider her father's feelings, too. He has decided to care for Anne, a decision that will weigh heavily on his own physical and emotional well-being.

The superbly acted “Amour” is effective on many levels. It shows being old not as a disease, but as one of the stages of life. Darius Khondji’s starkly beautiful cinematography emphasizes the colors of the autumn of one’s life.

Riva and Trintignant play characters who remember great joy and experience newfound sorrow. When Anne is nearly mute and suffering in pain, you can see her thoughts dance in her eyes. These two great French stars remind us not only of their characters’ past but also of their own history. Few movies do this. “Amour” is unforgettable.

Michael Calleri reviews films for Night and Day. Contact him at moviecolumn@gmail.com.

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