Yesterday I saw this:
And it wouldn’t let me stop laughing then or today. Ha ha. But completely seperate from that…
Also yesterday Conrad Noir and I watched Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, the shot for shot 2007 remake of his own 1997 original. If you’ve never heard of the film, the plot is simply: A well to do family goes on vacation, only to find their serenity interrupted by a pair of polite men who them hold them hostage and play cruel and tortuous mind games on them for a sick sense of amusement.
It’s the kind of film I can call “good,” but in a certain kind of way. It’s a hard film to watch, because there is a lot of suffering, but there’s no gore, no on screen violence, and that actuall makes this worse. Haneke made the film in 1997, intended for American audiences to see, since it was a direct comment on the manipulative spirit of American cinema, but then realized that a majority of Americans weren’t going to see a German language film made by an Austrian director. And he has a damn fine point, that. Whenever I hear people speaking German, I can’t help but imagine a Klingon saying “Hitler, Hitler, Hitler” over and over again.
Paradoxically, Haneke has also said that if either of these films were moderately successful, then they’ve failed in their message. This is the kind of the film, as with something like Irreversible, that I can see the artist’s intention in, and I agree with a good bit of what he’s saying about our love of “sick things” in America – and to think, he made the original actually before the resurgence of 70s horror here or our fascination with “torture porn” – and I can even see the art in it, but the subject matter is so murky that it’s a tough lesson, the impact of it dulled by what it does to your nerves, your feelings, your sense of self and righteousness in the world.
But, perhaps, as with the tagline to the original Last House On The Left, you have to remember that “it’s only a movie.”
Haneke is one of those directors that always has a message for you, a lecture he wants to impart on you in his films, and usually it can only be delivered by shocking you, which sadly, tends to dull the importance or seriousness of the lecture. It’s also important to note that you can “get” a movie and just not “like” it. These are my Tao Lin/Hipster Runoff “quote bros” quotes that I’m “using” here. And even if you don’t “like” a movie, you can still “appreciate” it as a “piece of art.” Whatever “that” means.
All that said, I really enjoyed his last film, Cache (Hidden), a kind of Hitchcockian thriller, taking on the terror of the recorded image, not just what it secretly sees about us, but what it invokes in us. It’s his masterpiece, I can say, even though I’ve only seen a few of his other films. I’ve always wanted to see The Piano Teacher, an I have Time Of The Wolf laying around somewhere, and it’s interesting that I haven’t watched it, since I do have a bit of an obsession with end of the world cinema.
Much more interesting from an artistic perspective to me is the shot for shot remake (other directors have remade their own work, especially Hitchcock and Capra, but this is the first shot for shot one that I can think of) factor – and I saw the original years ago and as far as I can remember, it is indeed shot for shot – or, if you will, the continuing pattern of it, like a cinematic mobius strip (or perhaps a living breathing Klein bottle?) moving through time in three dimensions (Escher would be proud), which the film already is: a strange loop on repeat.
There’s also an important message in this film, one that I think even the most casual of dabber in independent cinema should be aware of: Never, ever under any circumstances let Michael Pitt into your house. Just don’t do it, okay?