Film Review: Happy End
Category: Cinéma - Movies
Published: Thursday, 18 January 2018 22:17
Written by Gilbert Seah
HAPPY END (France/Germany/Austria 2017) ****
Directed by Michael Haneke
Austrian director Michael Haneke, whose last film in 2012 AMOUR won both the Best Foreign Film Oscar and Cannes Palme d’Or returns with a sequel that continues the exploits of the Laurent family. Though critics at Cannes were generally unimpressed with HAPPY END, the film is still not without its artistic pleasures. For one, Haneke still shocks with this film, though on a lighter scale.
HAPPY END can be seen as a film that infuses many of the traits of Haneke’s previous films. When the film opens, the audience sees what is happening though the recording on a cell phone, the routine of a 12-year old (Fantine Harduin) similar to the video surveillance in Haneke’s film CACHE (HIDDEN). This 12-year old is not one to be tampered with. She has a mean streak, spying on her father’s (Matthieu Kassovitz) computer and discovering his affair and poisoning a girl she dislikes at camp and her pet hamster. This is reminiscent of the power of children in Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON. The bourgeois French family is held together by Anne Laurent (Isabelle Huppert), the father’s sister. But suicide is in the mind of Anne’s father, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant). In Hanake’s first film, THE SEVENTH CONTINENT, the whole family committed mass suicide after a banquet meal. The dysfunctional family is all reminiscent of FUNNY GAMES in which a family is disrupted by a home invasion.
HAPPY END follows AMOUR where Anne has taken over the family business from Georges. The business has also just suffered a mishap in which several employees were killed. The CEO of the company is Anne’s deadbeat son (Franz Rogowski) who is hot-tempered and mentally unstable. At the same time, Anne is being engaged to be married to her tolerant fiancé (Toby Jones). All the events are seen from the point of view of the 12-year old, which brings the film to a good focus.
HAPPY END is a film that looks at the entire Laurent family rather than one or two characters as in Haneke’s other films. It is also lighter and funnier with death often just brushed off. In the scene when the servants’ daughter is bitten by a dog, Anne arrives with a box of chocolates.
But HAPPY END is serious in its consideration of suicide. Georges, in a comical scene, asks his tailor of 20 years to help him with getting him a gun or poison to end his life. Georges has already made one attempt on his own life by driving his car into a tree, but the family and cops have suspicions as the car left no tire brake marks.
The film ends with the wedding celebration of Anne rudely interrupted by her unstable son, Pierre with refugees from a nearby camp in Calais.. Hanake cleverly places the European migrant crisis into the the film's plot in the film’s climatic wedding scene . But Anne is able to deal with him, in a comical, unexpected way. (She breaks his finger.) The ending is just as funny and shows that life goes on, happy or not. What constitutes a HAPPY END, is the question Haneke poses.
HAPPY END flows so smoothly that it demands a second viewing to examine what one might have missed. The film is shot in French.
Trailer (en Francais): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0hv8I9YbDk
Film Review: La Danceuse
Category: Cinéma - Movies
Published: Thursday, 30 November 2017 01:41
Written by Gilbert Seah
LA DANSEUSE (THE DANCER) (France/Belgium/Czech 2016) **
Directed by Stéphanie Di Giusto
A 2016 French biographical musical drama film based on the true story, directed and written by Stéphanie Di Giusto and co-written by Thomas Bidegain and Sarah Thiebaud, based on the novel by Giovanni Lista, LA DANSEUSE opens with the film’s subject and protagonist carried away after what looks like an injury during a dance. This scene is returned to at the film’s halfway mark after she collapses from her first performance.
Director Di Giusto then takes her audience back to the dancer’s early days before she began her dance career, which is assumed must be a famous one. Loie Fuller (Soko) is revealed as a rebellious teen taken in by her stern mother after her alcoholic father dies. Loie promises to be obedient and not cause trouble which translates in movie terms that she will be disobedient and cause trouble. Besides posing nude and starring on stage, she finds her calling as a dancer, though what occurs on screen does not seem credible. One assumes what occurs must be true as the film is based on a true story. Di Giusto uses that as carte blanche to bring in whatever she likes and portray the incidents however she deems suitable. The result is a rather rough film, with too many incidents inserted inappropriately leaving the narrative disjointed.
Isadora Duncan (Lily-Rose Depp) is Loie’s dance peer. Her appearance might eclipse Loie’s story, but Di Guisto keeps that in check. Still it is hard to like Loie’s character. Di Giusto shows her as strong willed, stubborn to perform at risk of her personal health, self destructive and one who never accepts authority. Loie comes off as an unlikeable character no matter how dedicated she is to her art. As for the choreography with flowing dresses, it is quite different from ballet or modern dance and is a style in itself, taking a while to get used to.
The film is oddly shot in French and quite a bit in English. The mother is English while the father is French, which is assumed the reason. LA DANSEUESE is a period piece set in France and the period atmosphere and costumes show it. The film won the Cesar for Best costume Design (by Anais Romand).
The most famous of the cast is Gaspard Ulliel who always looks dashing in this case playing Loie’s romantic interest.
The film is an ok biography which is keen to reveal the (anti-feminist) prejudice of the times and travails the main subject went through. Di Giusto makes no attempt to make any of her characters likeable from Loie, to Isadora Duncan and to lover Louis and her other lesbian lover, Gabrielle (Mélanie Thierry). The result is a difficult film to like.
LA DANSEUSE was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. It took a year before finally released here, and might be worth a look if one likes period drama with some dancing added in for good measure. The film was nominated for several Cesar and Lumiere Awards, including nods for Best First Feature and acing (main and supporting) roles.