ALISTAIR Harkness and Mike McCahill review the rest of this week’s film release, including the final instalment of the Twilight trilogy
Directed by: Michael Haneke
Starring: Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert
Star rating: * *
DON’T be fooled by the title: from its ironic deployment in the opening credits – as a dead body is being wheeled out of a Parisian apartment – it’s clear that Michael Haneke’s latest is not going to be a heart-warming treatise on love and its infinite romantic possibilities. Instead, despite noises to the contrary from the festival circuit, Amour is very much in keeping with the austere Austrian auteur’s œuvre: which is to say, it’s another punitive exercise in cinematic bullying designed for the edification of that peculiarly meek and masochistic band of arthouse lovers who get a kick out of his prescriptive cinematic finger-wagging.
Exploring in mimetic detail the slow deterioration of an elderly woman after a series strokes (as well as the attendant devastating effect this has on her husband), Amour is certainly an uncompromising film, one that is made more wrenching by the faultless performances of Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant as Anne and George, the octogenarian couple whose lives we see disintegrating pitilessly before our eyes. Where past Haneke efforts have hinged upon sins real and imagined being visited upon predominantly bourgeois protagonists, here it’s the unavoidable ravages of time that are to blame for Anne and George’s current predicament.
At first this might make Amour seem like a bold and unblinking attempt to confront our deepest fears about ageing, and yet because Haneke sets his characters up as a cultured, well-adjusted couple who are still deeply in love with one another, it’s hard to escape the feeling that he’s merely adopting the guise of a humane filmmaker so that he can take perverse pleasure in pulling the rug out from under characters whose commitment to each other will become its own curse.
With George making a promise to Anne that he won’t send her back to hospital after an operation fails to aid her recovery, the film – in its coolly detached way – revels in showing us the grim, unremitting consequences of this promise as George is forced to cope with the physical and emotional toll of caring for the most important person in his life while her condition transforms her into a cruel reflection of her former self. But there’s no empathy here and no genuine insight either. The ageing process is just another indiscriminate threat, as brutal and unreasonable as the home invaders in Funny Games. For Haneke, love isn’t a comfort; it’s a death sentence.
Hit So Hard (TBC)
Directed by: P David Ebersole
Star rating: * * *
AT the height of grunge, Courtney Love’s band Hole was perhaps the most provocative and troubled. That was largely down to Love herself, but the band’s other members had their own share of demons, among them Hole’s openly gay drummer Patty Schemel, who went from small town obscurity to the cover of Rolling Stone magazine to prostituting herself on the streets of LA for crack.
Hit So Hard, an appropriately rough-and-ready documentary comprised of candid interviews and priceless home video footage, tells her story with plenty of candour and a merciful lack of self-pity. For grunge fans it’s the old home movie footage Schemel shot at the time that will doubtless prove most intriguing, not least because of the window it offers into her friendship with Love and her husband, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
But Schemel’s gradual ousting from Hole – partly down to her addictions, partly because Love got too caught up in the corporate side of the music business – encapsulates what went wrong with grunge as a whole. Some more context about the times might have been useful, but as Hit So Hard broadens out to talk about Schemel’s sexuality, it does offer some astute observations on the history of women in rock.
Up There (15)
Directed by: Zam Salim
Starring: Burn Gorman, Kate O’Flynn, Aymen Hamdouchi
Star rating: * * *
SHOT in Glasgow and Fife, this melancholic comedy about the bureaucracy of the afterlife makes amusing use of its locations to create a fully realised world in which the same boring and mundane problems we experience in life are repeated in death.
That’s the central gag in award-winning short filmmaker Zam Salim’s debut, and if it occasionally wears a little thin, the premise is held together by an engaging central turn from Burn Gorman as a recently deceased man who finds himself stuck doing a dead-end job as he waits to see if he’ll be allowed to ascend “up there” (the hinted at better place to which all lost souls are supposed to be striving to gain access). Taking a job as a carer to fast track his way out of this purgatory, he spends his days acclimatising “fresh meat” to their new surroundings and engaging in group therapy sessions to help prepare others for going up. But when his new partner scares off their first proper assignment, his own place in the queue is suddenly under threat. What follows is an offbeat road movie that puts an entertainingly morbid spin on the value of learning to appreciate one’s situation – however miserable it might at first seem.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (12A)
Directed by: Bill Condon
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner
Star rating; * *
A YEAR is a long time in the franchise biz. Twelve long months have passed since vampire Edward Cullen gave human paramour Bella Swan the emergency love transfusion that turned her head forever, and Twihards could be forgiven for switching their attentions to The Hunger Games, or R-Pattz and K-Stew’s real-life dramas, or real life itself.
For those still caring, the vampires remain at one another’s throats, while baby Renesmee (Renesmee!) has grown into a creepily docile CG creation, the pre-eminent example of this series’ consistently, contemptuously ropey effects work.
Elsewhere, grinding obligation holds sway: everyone’s tying up loose ends, and demonstrating no particular enthusiasm about doing so. As the leads skulk towards a final stand against befanged oppressor Michael Sheen, the plot entangles further vampires, Amazonians, even a senator – who must have better things to be doing – before resolving in one almighty fudge.
Stewart and Pattinson grit pretty pointed teeth and see out their contracts, but after the threeways and bedhopping of On the Road and Bel Ami, it now seems rather silly to see them going sparkly in the sun. They’ve grown out of this; so should we all.