Sunday, February 24, 2013

Red Ceiling

This is the screen (or part of it) at the Clay Theater on Fillmore, one of several small surviving neighborhood movie theaters in San Francisco. The ceiling is covered in red wallpaper. I went to an early show here on Sunday afternoon. Waiting for the film to start, I tried to remember when was the last time I paid to see a movie in a movie theater, but I couldn't remember. That's how rare it is in these late days. However, this was Michael Haneke's new film, Amour, with Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert. It already won the 2012 Palme d'Or at Cannes and is currently nominated for five Academy Awards.

Looking up showtimes this morning on SFGate (the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle) I could not avoid an entirely unwanted but solidly embedded capsule review by local film critic Mick LaSalle  – "don't go in without a word of warning: When director Michael Haneke isn't boring the audience, he is torturing it" – which only confirms my belief that there needs to be an international law to protect serious films from the trauma of being shown in America at all.

To be fair, in December when the film was released in this country The New York Times published an intelligent and expansive review by Manohla Dargis. Nowhere, though, have I read sufficient praise for the soundtrack, soaked at crucial intervals in Schubert's piano music. The same sound dominated The Piano Teacher, Haneke's unforgettable 2001 film starring Isabelle a troubled, Schubert-loving piano teacher. In Amour she plays the troubled daughter of retired, Schubert-loving piano teachers. In both films, this inimitable music serves as code for emotions too deep and complicated for ready expression in words.