Considering only one of the previous three posts this week was about the Super Bowl, I think we’re going to go ahead and declare Super Bowl week nonexistent for this year. Unless you think a French movie about an 80-year-old couple facing death has to do with football, of course.
Hey, guess what? I’ve just summed up the plot of Amour in that one sentence! The French-language film with five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, deals with an elderly couple played by Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva (nominated for Best Actress). One day, Anne (Riva) suffers a minor stroke at breakfast, turning unresponsive for two minutes. Georges (Trintignant) takes her to the hospital, where a failed surgery leaves her partially paralyzed. From that point on, he must deal with the burden of taking care of his wife, as she continually deteriorates until her eventual death.
Sound cinematically appealing to you? It’s not. Despite superb work by the two lead thespians and a decently-well-told story, Amour is drunk off of its own artsy appeal. Director Michael Haneke holds every shot in place until you’re silently screaming for the camera to move – and then, after another 15 seconds of this beautiful shot of a chair, the camera finally moves. The script contains scene after scene of absolute nothingness, with countless moments that do absolutely nothing to advance the story. I understand that Amour is about the slow descent and deterioration on death – but all it ends up doing is slowly deteriorating the audience’s condition until our eyes glaze over.
This is meant to be great art. Perhaps Amour truly is, and my viewpoint’s wildly off-base. Its Rotten Tomatoes score stands at a critically acclaimed 92%, while it won the coveted Palme d’Or for Best Film at last year’s Cannes Film Festival. And as previously mentioned, the film’s the owner of five Oscar nominees. But Amour may be the longest two hours I’ve ever spent in a movie theatre. If that’s the point – that this is the way life happens sometimes, sitting around and waiting for someone to die – then Haneke makes his point loud and clear. And good for him – but that does not make the movie an appealing one. There’s nothing enjoyable about the cinematic experience of slowly anticipating death. And Amour could have easily cut 30 minutes from its two-hour running time without losing the picture’s sense of molasses-esque movement.
It’s to no fault of the two leads that Amour doesn’t work. Riva, critically acclaimed by so many outlets, proves herself to be a worthy Oscar nominee. Her performance, so vibrant at points, becomes a heartbreaking turn when Anne is paralyzed. And Trintignant, the film’s lead, is just as good, if not better – he just faced a more crowded Best Actor field.
Unfortunately for them, their talents are wasted in a film that thinks almost a minutes’ worth of nothing but out-of-context shots of paintings passes for true art. Amour is the mostly slowly self-indulgent movie I’ve ever seen. It’s a story that didn’t need to be told on screen, yet Haneke insists on squeezing every drop out of it as possible. I certainly have nothing against foreign films, and I’m obviously not limited to dumb popcorn flicks, but Amour just doesn’t appeal to any of my senses. Unless “resisting the urge to fall asleep” is a sense, of course.