You'll get only small fragments of Michael Haneke's biography in "Michael H., Profession Director." Yet you will see how Haneke works. And you'll get a strong dose of how actors feel about the man who forces them to force audiences to confront terrifying emotions. (Trailer after the jump.)
It’s not about having fun, says Jean-Louis Trintignant.
Yves Montmayeur's feature-length profile, among the very best in the Tribeca program, is not the standard bio-doc, but a portrait of the artist in his own words – interviews with Haneke, plus clips and thoughts from his actors.
If this isn't an official story – and it seems like one, given Montmayeur's access to Haneke and his collaborators – it is a story from one point of view, punctuated, on the somber side, with Schubert's Impromptu Opus 90 D899 Number 1.
"In all my films I have made an attempt to approach the truth," the director of the Oscar-winning "Amour" says, looking straight into the camera. "Whether I have succeeded is another matter. And I have always tried to take my viewers seriously. If you take someone seriously, you can tell them unpleasant things that upset all of us."
It's no coincidence that Haneke hides his face behind a white beard. With a deliberate stage whisper, the professor of performing arts in Vienna describes himself as a craftsman, and he says coyly that the benefit of his stardom – or notoriety – is that the butcher recognizes him, hence he tends to get a better piece of meat than in earlier days. He and the butcher – the Handwerker (craftsman), as he calls himself, and the Fleischhauer, (butcher, or meatworker in German) – are both skilled craftsmen. Right, except that we didn’t see the butcher on the Croisette.
Methinks he downplayeth too much in this authorized portrait. Access to Haneke at work was not a problem. Most of the footage comes from the sets of his films and clips are allowed to run, in the style of Scorsese's movie docs, longer than the usual cable TV nano-second. He's as quotable as Scorsese, but in clipped sentences rather than stories.
Access to Haneke the person is another thing. The man who talks at length about the mechanics of a scene resists telling the personal stories that might link his work to anything about him personally, or to the legacy of the Hitler Era – the kind of roadmap that many Haneke watchers might seek.