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'Amour' review: Bien or tres bien?

*** (out of four)

Theoretically all movies are subjective, but I suspect feelings about Cannes' top prizewinner “Amour” will be a particular matter of taste.

No doubt, it's an intimate tale of devotion from Michael Haneke (“Funny Games,” “Cache”), a filmmaker known for patience but not edge-less restraint. Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and his wife, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), both retired music teachers in their 80s, live a comfortable life in Paris. Then all of a sudden, like the attempted burglary on their apartment, Anne's mind is invaded. She seems to black out, then snap out of it. Soon, after his wife officially has had a stroke and an operation has failed, Georges begins transitioning, with hired help, into continuous care of a woman who is paralyzed on her right side and frequently cannot speak coherently.

The performances—including Isabelle Huppert as Georges’ and Anne’s daughter, who claims hearing them making love when she was a kid was reassuring—are nothing short of heartbreaking. Riva very much deserves her Best Actress Oscar nod.

“Amour” often looks and hurts like seeing real lives in real time. Is that enough? Honesty gradually becomes simplicity as the film's reality outweighs its insight. Haneke refuses to look away from the truth and indignities of aging but doesn't quite uncover new ground. It's as agonizing as but less rewarding than “Away From Her.”

He does capture a husband up for it all, be it feeding or diaper-changing, doing his best to suppress frustration and fear. The most chilling question of this slow drama might be whether, faced with the end, two people who have given their lives to each other ultimately act in the interest of themselves or their better halves.
 

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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