Director Michael Haneke, whose powerful films explore the underbelly of race, family, and the conventions of cinematic violence, is finally getting the retrospective treatment he deserves thanks to the good folks at The Anthology Film Archives. The retrospective runs Friday, July 14th- Sunday, July 23rd. I am a latecomer to Haneke's work; I caught up with him when I saw The Piano Teacher at a festival screening, and I have been devoted to his films ever since. This retrospective offers a rare chance to see films like The Seventh Continent and 71 Fragments Of A Chronology Of Chance on the big screen and in 35mm. Kino's long-awaited DVD release of many of Haneke's early films* seems to be the occasion, but nothing beats seeing these films in the cinema surrounded by friends and strangers.
Strangers on a Train: Maurice Bénichou and Juliette Binoche in a harrowing scene from Haneke's prescient Code Unknown (2000)
I will admit a minor disappointment; there is no screening of Haneke's adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Castle (Das Schloß) scheduled, and it is one of the few films of his I have never seen. Nor are his numerous made-for-television movies being shown**. But with so many great films being screened in the coming week in all of their 35mm glory, it would be disingenuous to complain. Of most interest in the 'current events' department would be Code Unknown, which looks at race and immigration among the French bourgeois, and Time of The Wolf, a science-fiction film about the end of the world without any science and far more truth than fiction.
Each of Haneke's films will inspire endless discussion, but one film stands divisively apart for its polarizing impact; is there a better cinematic deconstruction of the summer vacation than Funny Games? Seeing it with an audience should be just the tonic as we await Haneke's rumored English language remake, with Naomi Watts slated to play Anna.*** The idea of Haneke bringing his unflinching sensibility to the unreality that is post-9/11 security anxiety in America is almost too perfect for words. Will America be repulsed or will the film strike a chord with audiences exhausted by the non-stop diet of Freedomland, Firewall and the innumerable other bullshit "American family in danger" stories that have polluted screens in the past few months? I can hardly wait. I think Naomi Watts could be an inspired choice for the role provided we see less of The Ring and more of Mullholland Drive's third act. The question is which English-language actors can duplicate the blood-curdling sense of bored entitlement brought to the original by Arno Frisch and Frank Giering? Ryan Gosling and Jonathan Rhys Meyers? Peter Sarsgaard? Talk about a tough casting job...
And My Neighbors Wonder Why I Never Lend Them Eggs: Arno Frisch and Stefan Clapczynski in Haneke's Funny Games (1997)
Thanks again to The Anthology for assembling this challenging retrospective. Maybe I'll see some of you at my planned Benny's Video, 71 Fragments Of A Chronology Of Chance and Funny Games**** triple feature on Saturday, July 15th. I will most certainly need a drink afterwards.
The Films of Michael Haneke
The Anthology Film Archives
32 Second Avenue NY, NY
Friday, July 14- Sunday, July 23, 2006
THE SEVENTH CONTINENT
71 FRAGMENTS OF A CHRONOLOGY OF CHANCE
THE PIANO TEACHER
TIME OF THE WOLF
*Thanks to the inimitable David Hudson for a link to the news...
**Ideas on tracking down any of Haneke's made-for-TV films is appreciated. I am especially interested in Die Rebellion and the Lemminge films.
***Also, see the original announcement corrected. No Celluloid Nightmares for Haneke.
****Yeah, I spend my summers in the city watching movies. Enjoy the Hamptons, but for goodness sake watch out for uninvited guests! *grin*