Mondays With Schobie: The devastating Amour is made for home viewing
Left to Right: Director Michael Haneke, Emmanuelle Riva, and Jean-Louis Trintignant
Photo by © Denis Manin, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
There are certain films that are just made for the big-screen — if you’re going to see Pacific Rim, it is probably theater or busy — and there are others that seem ideally suited to an intimate setting. Michael Haneke’s overwhelmingly emotional Amour is one of the latter picks.
The Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film arrives tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, and my guess is many who were turned off to the idea of seeing a film about a long-married couple whose lives are turned upside down when the wife suffers a stroke will rent it. I expect they’ll come away moved, especially since so many of us have gone through similar situations in our own families. When I saw the film at a Saturday night public screening at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival, I became aware, early in the film, of the sounds of sobbing. As the film progressed, these sounds became more and more pronounced.
Some of this reaction is due to the note-perfect performances from legendary stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, but I could not help thinking that for many in the audience, Amour was hitting close to home. It certainly did for me—it was my pick as last year’s No. 1 film.
I am not exaggerating when I saw that this film might be the finest ever made about love and aging. It is certainly Haneke’s (The White Ribbon, Cache, Funny Games) most human creation, yet it retains the air of mystery and unease that defines his best work. Most films that arrive with this level of praise are a letdown, but this is not the case when it comes to Amour. It is a game-changing film.
The DVD and Blu-ray both include a making-of feature, as well as a Q-and-A with the soft-spoken Haneke. Even if you’ve already seen Amour, revisiting is wise. That’s another sign of a great film. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment; 2013)
A few other brief August recommendations:
I’ve enjoyed each installment of Jo Nesbo’s “Harry Hole” series—how have none of these been adapted yet for the big-screen?—and Harry’s debut has finally arrived in America. The Bat takes the world-weary detective to Australia, and considering how tough things are for him in later installments, I found it fascinating to finally see where Nesbo’s series all began. It’s a taut, gripping thriller, and a strong debut. (Vintage; 2013)
Another very different but no less intriguing book is Karina Longworth’s Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor, a gorgeous book that breaks down the actor’s career into ten specific performances. Longworth is a fantastic film critic, and what I loved most about Anatomy is her inclusion of some lesser Pacino projects. Ready for this? There is a chapter on his performance in the Adam Sandler-in-drag romp Jack and Jill. And Longworth not only justifies its existence in the Pacino canon, but actually makes me want to see that awful movie again. Seriously. It’s an outrageously insightful section of a truly great book. (Phaidon Press; 2013)
Woody Allen’s latest film, Blue Jasmine, opened in Buffalo on Friday, and you’ve probably read all about the Cate Blanchett-starrer. Let me stress that this is another case in which the hype is not wrong. Jasmine might be his best drama since 1989’s Crimes and Misdemeanors; I loved Match Point, but this is more involving on an emotional level. Blanchett gives one of the great Woody female lead performances, but the entire cast is strong, including Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, and Andrew Dice Clay (!). There have been many great indie films this summer—Frances Ha, Before Midnight, The Bling Ring. Make no mistake, Blue Jasmine belongs on that list. It might even belong at the top. (Sony Pictures Classics; 2013)
Christopher Schobert freelnaces for Buffalo Spree and is the man behind the popular film blog, filmswoon.com.