Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's A Very Haneke Weekend!


Hard to believe, but Michael Haneke's Funny Games remake actually really-for-real comes out tomorrow. It's like Christmas and genocide all mixed together! Looking through my archives I see that the first time I mentioned this remake was way back on May 19th, 2006, when an interview with Naomi Watts on her being cast in Eastern Promises made mention of the remake's existence. A couple of weeks later in a post on Haneke I said I was "practically [dying] from anticipation." Well I must be dead then, because it's March of 2008 and I still haven't seen the thing.

The film, you might remember, was set to come out in October of last year, but then got bumped to tomorrow. I cried, gnashed my teeth, punched little old ladies randomly on the sidewalk. But now it's here. And I might just crap my shorts.

Defamer of all places did a pretty decent job today rounding up the critical reactions the remake is eliciting... not surprisingly, there's a lot of anger being vented. Thankfully for Haneke, that's exactly how he wants the audience to react to the film. The whole thing's a taunt, a dare, a smack in the face insinuating that you're pretty effed up if you want to see this movie through to the end (just for now, let's not pay attention to the fact that I've seen the original five times now, mkay?). For what it is, Funny Games (I speak of the original here) is a perfectly crafted bit of sadism - towards both the characters and the audience - and I still find myself boggled that an American studio - Warner Brothers! - financed and is releasing it (in just 285 theaters, but still).

Still, here are some of my favorite quotes from critics reviewing the new film:

"Do you want to see the worm turn? Or simply wish the movie would end? Professional obligations required that I endure it, but there's no reason why you should." - J. Hoberman, Village Voice

"Some powerful movies have been made from senseless slaughter (“In Cold Blood”), but Haneke’s script gives the viewer no way into the characters. Pic also tries to have it both ways, supplying the viewer with one brief moment of emotional satisfaction, but then turning that satisfaction against the viewer." - Derek Elly, Variety (Wow, that argument again?)

"It's certainly one of the ballsiest movies ever released by Warner Bros. (technically Warner Independent) in its 90 year history. I mean this in a sense that average people might come out of showings feeling enormous hate for Warner Bros. for having done so. Seriously. If the final effect wasn't so stunning and dispiriting I could imagine people beating up ushers on the way out." - Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere

"You know what garbage is, but until you see Funny Games, a bucket of swill by Austrian wacko Michael Haneke, you have no idea how bad it can smell." - Rex Reed, The Observer (speaking of, I've always taken it as a general rule that if Rex Reed hates it, it's automatically worth seeing)
And here are a few of my own posts from the past couple of years on Michael Haneke and Funny Games that you might find worth reading...

Jan 25, 2008 - Funny & Frisch
Oct 16, 2007 - Michael Haneke Q&A
Sept 14, 2007 - Funny Games' Trailer
June 19 - Somebody Saw Funny Games!
May 16, 2007 - The Forced-Entry Film
Oct 20, 2006 - Funny Games News
June 13, 2006 - Michael Haneke

So I'll see y'all in the theater this weekend!
I'll be the one in short white shorts
and Mickey Mouse gloves sitting right behind you!



Stacie Ponder said...

The "scene" that everyone gets so upset about- yeah, it upset me. It fucking bummed me out. The point of that scene, I think, is "Guess what? Life isn't a movie"...which is profoundly depressing (particularly in this film's context), but it didn't leave me angry at Haneke or the film.

I think the boat scene- right after your last screen grab there- may have affected me most of all. You know what's going to happen, but then it does with barely a shrug and it's devastating.

Like I said on my site...I don't know, it just worked for me.

Joe Reid said...

As I've said many times before, the reaction to this movie is going to be as interesting to me (if not more so) than the movie itself, since I've already seen the original. So this post made me insanely happy. Love that outrage!

Jason Adams said...

Rex Reed is such a dolt. You should read that entire review, Joe; he's such a hysterical ninny. I'd say the man has no business reviewing movies, but I get an awful lot of pleasure out of laughing at how terrible a writer he is and how horrible all of his opinions always are.

Stacie, I never took issue with the remote control scene either. One might not like Haneke's point, but that moment is a distillation of his entire point, so arguing against it is always seemed to me that somebody was refusing to see the forest for the trees.

The ending... yeah, this is a bleak mofo of a movie. It gets less so the more one watches it obviously - it was a real gut-punch the first time through, but since watching it repeatedly now and analyzing the fuck out of it, it has lost some of it's impact. I'm really hoping that I get that sort of wallop back with this American version.

Because I am apparently a masochist, and like it when films make me feel like shit. Love it, in fact.

Stacie Ponder said...

It's just nice to have a film leaving me feel anything, even days afterwards. That's part of the reason why I love scary movies so much; if a film is so powerful that it's going to keep me awake at night...that just amazes me.

I'm hoping things heat up over at FG after people see this and opinions start flying.

Of course, everyone who disagrees with me is wrong.


Jason Adams said...

Stacie, I'd agree with you on the "you're always right" meme, but there are instances where you've been wrong - I speak of those rare occasions when you and I have disagreed, of course (I'm looking at you, Behind the Mask!). ;-)

I was trying really hard to be diplomatic in the comments of your post; I could've went off on a thousand different tangents. If I feel the need, though, you might hear the ear-shattering break-the-sound-barrier noise of me screeching into those comments if somebody says something I must rail against.

Jason Adams said...

Also (golly I'm glad I can ramble all I want in my own comments without feeling guilty), I hear what you're saying on finding a movie that isn't happy unless it elicits something from you. Haneke's playing every card in the deck to get under the viewer's skin, and he's smart enough to make it stick. It's a shame more filmmakers, especially in horror - although I agree with you on FG being "horrific" and not "horror" - don't seem to even try.

And I have to reiterate you need to check out some of his other work. Benny's Video is the closest sibling to FG, so that might be a nice place to move to next. And I feel like Cache is the exact same movie, only with the deus ex machina of actual sadistic characters in the movie talking to the screen, he eliminates the middle man, and finds a way to implicate the viewer in an even harsher way. And The Piano Teacher... PT is worth watching for Isabelle Hupert's fearless bat-shit insane performance alone.

Stacie Ponder said...

Holy shit, I finally read Rex Reed's review in its entirety.

I've never seen anyone more off-base about anything in the history of ever.

I don't even mean that he didn't like it- that would be fine. But he's fucking clueless it's unbelievable.

It depresses me that the man gets paid to critique films.

Glenn Dunks said...

You know my thoughts on the original, and I have no problem with movies making me feel angry/miserable, but Funny Games just had me sitting there asking myself "why am I watching this?" I get Hanake's point (well, a vague broad version of it), I just don't care about it.

And I like downder endings on occasions, but apart from the obvious, I felt like the end of Funny Games placed me right back at the start again. It's like nothing even happened. I watched all of that energy-sapping junk and... what? Just felt empty.

(RANDOM ANALOGY TIME!) It'd be like watching An Inconvenient Truth and then being told "there is absolutely nothing you can do! we're all gonna die!" Thanks a lot for the big lesson, can I get back to what I was doing now?

Of course, that's just me (as you are keenly aware).

Anonymous said...

God I love The Piano Teacher, probably my favorite film from the last decade alongside Dogville and Mulhollad Drive. Huppert is phenomenal in it, and Magimel is also at the top of his game (he's also very attractive, I'm trying to meet him through my agent in Paris lol)

Catherine said...

I had planned to rent the original on dvd before the new one comes out over here, but reading these comments I'm a bit wary. How bad is it, exactly?

Jason Adams said...

It depends on what you mean by "bad", Catherine. If you mean gory or violent, all of the violence except one very quick instance happens out-of-frame. Most of the time, when something awful happens in FG, the camera is looking at a passive viewer's face, or isn't even in the same room.

If, by "bad", you mean upsetting... most people I know find it very upsetting. I found it very upsetting. There's a good portion of people who find it boring though, too, and I don't mean people looking for explicit violence and bored by its absense, I mean people who simply aren't digging Haneke's wavelength here (Hi Glenn!).

The movie is about violence. It might not show most of said violence right in your face, but it doesn't need to. It's not about rooting for a bad guy to get his - it's about undercutting that very instinct, really. It's about undercutting all of our instincts when it comes to violence in entertainment. It's a movie made to leave a mark. So as much as I love it, I have realized it's not everybody's cuppa tea and think it's up to you. Haneke himself would be the first to say stay away if you don't feel the need.

Catherine said...

Thanks for the speedy reply. :o

It's usually gore that turns me off a film, rather than psychological terror. The more I read about this the more intrigued I am. I think I'll rent it this weekend.

I also need to see "The Piano Teacher". My French teacher brought our class to see Caché when it opened two years ago. That was...awkward. I loved it (wrong verb, I guess) but the rest of the class were divided equally between extreme tedium and disgust.

Jason Adams said...

If you've seen and admired a Haneke film before then I'd say you'll all set with seeing Funny Games then. I don't think FG is his greatest film - Cache, Benny's Video, and The Piano Teacher vie for that spot, but usually fall out in that order - but it is his angriest, his most jarring, and I think it's fascinating.

Glenn Dunks said...

I very much like Cache, was positive (but not incredibly) towards Code Unknown, loved Huppert in The Piano Teacher, but am not as certain on the film. Really quite dislike Funny Games and thought Time of the Wolf was so bad I turned it off after 20 minutes.

Quite the gamut there.

Catherine said...

Hmmm. So, I just watched it. I was all psyched up for it; had a big pot of coffee, a blanket and a teddy bear (can you tell I'm a pussy little girlie?), but it didn't have the impact I imagined it would. No, that's not right. It deeply disturbed me while I was watching it, but I never felt the need to stop it, or fast forward, or turn on the light (something I had to do while watching [safe] and Inland Empire, incidentally). When it was over, I was relieved but also curiously unmoved. I had planned to put on something a little more cheerful afterwards, even had the Clueless dvd lined up, but I didn't feel the need. I don't know...

I need to think about this for a while.

Glenn Dunks said...

Reading Jim Emerson's review at Ebert's site is actually a pretty good reflection of what I feel.

I get what Haneke's reasoning is, but in doing so he stops the movie from being anything other than an hour and 50 minutes of watching people be put through hell who don't deserve it. A movie without rules isn't a movie at all. Even sci-fi and fantasy have rules. I don't care about Haneke following genre traditions or whatever, but by allowing his villains to be these omnipitent beings made it all feel like a pointless waste of time. Even Superman has kryptonite, ya know? Who would wanna watch a superhero movie about a superhero who can't be hurt? (or villain, as the case they may be)

It really is just something that I can't overcome when thinking about the movie, but I know it couldn't be changed because then the movie would be entirely different and it would be something that Haneke wouldn't make. I can't imagine the film without the bits that annoy me, yet I don't like them. Does that make sense?