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September 7, 2007 4:59 PM   Subscribe

This European filmmaker is in the midst of remaking one of his most controversial films for an American audience. Funny Games is a film that may be difficult to watch for many. Here is the trailer from the original 1997 version of the film. Micheael Haneke wants audiences to think about their own beliefs regarding violence (insightful spoilers inside). Can Haneke find success with an American audience with a "shot by shot" remake? Haneke discussed previously on mefi here and here.

Here are a few stills from the remake. The new film is rumored to be opening in about 7 weeks. If this is true, it will be released the week of Halloween. Haneke's work could help rethink the horror genre as we know it.
posted by zerobyproxy (80 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I watched Funny Games one night on IFC. I thought it was OK until it had the lamest deus ex machina I have ever seen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:07 PM on September 7, 2007


About time. Having to read "AAAAAAGH!!!" in subtitles all the time distracts the viewer from a good garroting.
posted by hal9k at 5:07 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like Haneke but he really need to make a decent film for me to keep liking him. A remake of Funny Games will not be that film.
posted by item at 5:15 PM on September 7, 2007


I thought the original was pointless trash. Ugliness without meaning, attempting to pass as something profound. (In contrast, I thought the incredible violence and discomfort in the movie Irreversible had a purpose to it.)
posted by tula at 5:20 PM on September 7, 2007


@tula

Really? I don't know that the two differ in levels of violence or how profound they are. I would argue that Funny Games isn't pointless. How would you compare "not showing torture, but alluding to it" to "a 7 minute rape scene" in terms of ugliness?

If you look at Haneke's interview links (in my post above), perhaps you will find more depth to the film than you thought was there.
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2007


On the subject of European horror, I really enjoyed High Tension.

I also liked Caché, directed by this guy.

Caché was a lot more cool headed or intellectual than High Tension which was just nuts.
posted by nervousfritz at 5:28 PM on September 7, 2007


I thought it was OK until it had the lamest deus ex machina I have ever seen.

Ahh... the film has no deus ex machina, at least not to my understanding of that phrase which I thought was only applicable to endings of stories.

Imo, Haneke is the greatest living filmmaker. If the remake of FG is not taken away from him at some point, I believe that it will be the most discussed film Hollywood's turned out in years if not decades.

Mainstream media (non-film related) will be all over it--holding it up as an example of the depravity of the Hollywood industry. I predict Oscar nominations for Watts and Pitt but none for Haneke.

With any luck, the film won't just alter the horror genre, but American film in general. Haneke tells the story with the cut, has an awesome command of mise en scene, and (so far) never uses non-diegetic music; Hollywood needs this film to succeed to give the medium back the balls George Lucas and filmmakers of that ilk smuggled out of town a quarter century ago.

On preview: On the subject of European horror, I really enjoyed High Tension.

You have got to be kidding. That movie was pure shit, begining to end.
posted by dobbs at 5:31 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Film nerd slap fight in 10 , 9, 8, 7 . . .
posted by nola at 5:35 PM on September 7, 2007


Reading the synopsis of the German Funny Games just made me think of the recent Connecticut home invasion multiple rape & murder of a woman & her teenage daughters while her husband had to lie downstairs, tied up & listening to the whole thing.

It made me feel a little sick to my stomach, and also pretty sad. I can't imagine I would ever want to see a movie that reminded me of that crime.
posted by jonson at 5:55 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've never seen this movie, but the interview and reading a plot synopsis, I won't see it, nor any Haneke movie, because he comes across as the kind of artist I hate, which is someone who is smarmy, hypocritical, and self-satisfied, believing there is something wrong with his audience that he will correct them with his message. That some films are bad, and when you watch them you become bad, because of how violence is protrayed, but, of course, not his film, becuase it's "self-aware." He then goes on to say that if watch this film, then criticsize it, you are a hypocrite. Also, with the discussion of the rewind, he is somehow able to read the mind of the audience, then on to, of course, how some people just don't "get it" and are now consuming it, (as if people weren't consuming it for some self-flaggation and moral superiority, before, perhaps?)

Great, he has a message, what did Goldwyn say? "If you want to send a message, use Western Union."

There is a lot to say and question about violence in movies, but it's pretty boring if you know the answers already, and ignore more interesting questions.

on preview: The money scene? Maybe people complained about it because it's interminable.
posted by Snyder at 6:02 PM on September 7, 2007


Snyder , that's why Kubrick said very little about his films. He thought, and I agree, a film should speak for it self. Otherwise whats the point of film?
posted by nola at 6:06 PM on September 7, 2007


I think he should try making cartoons. Everyone knows that cartoon violence is completely reversible, and no one is "guilty" for having seen it. Plus, it will be good for him, to develop his imagination.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 6:15 PM on September 7, 2007


dobbs writes "Imo, Haneke is the greatest living filmmaker."

A lot of people feel this way. I need to see more of his movies. I enjoyed Caché, though I thought the final scene was kind of a "fuck you" to the audience. I have The Piano Teacher sitting at home... maybe I'll watch it tonight.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:18 PM on September 7, 2007


jonson writes "It made me feel a little sick to my stomach, and also pretty sad. I can't imagine I would ever want to see a movie that reminded me of that crime."

Do you know that they've made movies about the holocaust?! Who the hell wants to be reminded of that....
posted by mr_roboto at 6:28 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sweet! I feel Godwin's Law coming into effect..
posted by DoubtingThomas at 6:59 PM on September 7, 2007


I felt sick when I saw the original. I had to stop watching soon after the kid got killed.
posted by mike3k at 7:10 PM on September 7, 2007


@Dobbs--I agree. Haneke has created some of the most challenging films during the past 10 years. I have shown Funny Games to many of my friends. Some liked it. Some, absolutely hated it (my friend Bob gave it 5 thumbs down).

Everyone who didn't like it, said it was too violent. When I asked them what violence they saw, they all referred to the killings (which were not shown). In their mind's eye, they had seen the violence, but truly, they hadn't.

The violence is, mainly, alluded to throughout the film. Haneke never gives the audience the type of violence that they want to see. On one hand, viewers feel the film is too violent. On the other, they are not satisfied because they don't get to see violence practiced on the evil doers. Rather, Haneke opts to show the banality of the evil. Does the audience really want to see the same level of violence that the villains demonstrate? Is there a good violence and a bad violence?

If for nothing else, this film is worth seeing because you will react to it. So many films today elicit no reaction at all from the audience. How did the public feel while watching Night at the Museum? Meh. How many films can utilize the medium and make you feel something?
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:35 PM on September 7, 2007


Do you know that they've made movies about the holocaust? Who the hell wants to be reminded of that....


If anyone's creating horror porn about the holocaust, where the nazis wink at the camera, kill all the jews & escape to commit attrocities again, I'm pretty sure I don't want to see that either. But thanks for your snark. Try harder next time, okay?
posted by jonson at 7:52 PM on September 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm with jonson; I'd like to take anyone who likes a movie like Funny Games, and kidnap them, and torture them. You know, stuff like break limbs but leave them alive, rape or kill loved ones in front of them, knowing that they'll die soon but having to suffer through every aching, pointless moment. Then, in those last moments of their life, I'd like to stare deep into their eyes, see the fear registered there, and ask them:

"So.

Is this entertainment? Are we enjoying ourselves now?"

Hey, dobbs, give me a call. We should do lunch!


Seriously, though: reading that synopsis, it sounds like there's absolutely no point to the film, and the filmmaker is a quasi sociopathic wanker at best, and a genuine danger to society at worst. The reason most audiences prefer the "happy ending" of some kind is because we know there's horror in the world, and know that the bad guys win sometimes; the ability of a story to give us catharsis kind of depends on us not being sickened. This movie sounds like snuff porn, pure and simple; if you like this, you're rotten in your brain.
If for nothing else, this film is worth seeing because you will react to it. So many films today elicit no reaction at all from the audience. How did the public feel while watching Night at the Museum? Meh. How many films can utilize the medium and make you feel something?
Sure. And if video footage of the "girl next door" who was tortured for months by the psychopathic mother, her evil kids, and the neighborhood monsters before finally succumbing to their inhuman actions... would you want to watch that? Because that would make you feel something. So what? Isn't that kind of the heart of sadism itself: using the harm of others simple so that we can feel something?

Chrissakes, some of you are batshit insane.
posted by hincandenza at 8:11 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


So what? Isn't that kind of the heart of sadism itself: using the harm of others simple so that we can feel something?

I'm sorry, I missed in my reading the fact that the director had actually tortured and killed people. I was under the mistaken impression his films were works of fiction.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:31 PM on September 7, 2007


using the harm of others simple so that we can feel something?

This is precisely the point of the film, but by all means write another bloated exegesis of work you have never seen. You may have a future as a critic.
posted by Wolof at 8:36 PM on September 7, 2007


I would argue that Funny Games isn't pointless.

Go for it.

On the other hand, if it meant something to you then it succeeded. Reactions to movies are very subjective. It did nothing for me, didn't make me think or feel much of anything except revulsion unattached to any meaning. It was like a box with the word poop in it. I looked in, saw the poop, smelled the poop, said "yuck! poop!", felt sick and then the movie ended, and that was that. I'll listen to the director's interview and see if anything strikes a nerve, but unfortunately I'll probably just think he's a jerk working out his what it has meant to be a German in the 20th century stuff. I didn't like Cache much either, but it was at least the suspense was fun. Till you realized it wasn't going anywhere.

The violence at the beginning of 'Irreversible' made me angry and confused, and I felt alienated and horrified. But it took me all the way through hell and out the other side, completely wrung out. I like films that take me out of myself, even if it's to a dark awful place. But that's just me.
posted by tula at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2007


@hincandenza--You truly have me at a loss for words. Yes we know that there is horror in the world. So do you prefer lithium or Xanax?

Your attitude is exactly what this film is about. From your comments about kidnapping people who watch Funny Games and torturing them is...well...priceless. You want the violence, just on your terms, because you believe that you are right.

Sadism, no. No one is espousing snuff films here either, so step off the slippery slope please. It is fiction. If a fictional film makes you this upset, even without having seen it, well...batshit insane right back 'atcha.

To bring this back around to a friendlier spot--what film has made you feel something recently? Honestly, what is it that makes a film move you?
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:42 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I saw the film knowing very little about Haneke. I thought the balance of tension was done really well, until the rewind scene, which broke the movie for me. At that point, I felt really annoyed by what seemed to me to be the director or writer enforcing his will on a script that seemed to be moving along at a natural pace.
These type of films (focusing on the killers more than the victims) I more often than not compare to "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" in which everything unfolds in a more-or-less organic way and is shot as true-to-life as possible, and there is no happy ending because sometimes events just don't have them. Using that comparison, I felt the film really failed me with the wink ("Fooled ya! It ain't over yet!).
As for the happy endings, me, I've seen no end of horror movies and sometimes I get tired of the bad guys being defeated in the end (only to come back during the credits to suggest a sequel). The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (excluding the damned remakes) and the Night/Dawn/Day of the Dead films end without the good guys winning; Leatherface is still swinging his chainsaw in the sunset, and the Dead have inherited the Earth. I find it more interesting how a writer deals with this issue than how to wrap it all up so the heroes are safe at the end.
Having said all that, I can understand why any film of this type would provoke a strong negative reaction against it. Really - there's enough insane things that have happened/are happening in the world (the Khmer Rouge, people strapping bombs to themselves, Rwanda, etc,) that adding another voice to the choir seems to be obscene. People have always liked a good execution, though.
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:46 PM on September 7, 2007


Everyone who didn't like it, said it was too violent.

So count me as one who isn't saying that. Meaningless, yes.
posted by tula at 8:49 PM on September 7, 2007


Hincandenza, you've certainly hit the central problem the movie poses -- and I haven't seen it, but reading the synopsis of it at wikipedia got me thinking.

We, as audience, seem to be pushed to follow the action from the torturer Paul's perspective. Does that mean that in enjoying the movie, we are somehow enjoying the idea of ourselves committing these crimes? That appears to be the central question the movie poses.

The answer the director seems to prefer is that yes, we may somehow take on the role of Paul during the course of the film. Again, this is based on the synopsis, but the discussion that Peter and Paul apparently have about the relationship of fiction to reality is the evidence I'm using here.

But if the director himself thinks that this is the case, why would he want us to enjoy the film, or even to like it? It seems he would, or perhaps should, prefer that viewers are repulsed by the film -- since enjoying the film amounts to an endorsement of that sort of behavior, and I presume the director does not actually prefer a world with more such sadists in it. I would hazard that this film is one that we are not supposed to enjoy, and if we find ourselves enjoying it, that should be a scary experience.

I think that people who avoid these questions and merely state, "I love this film," possibly pointing out the breaking-the-4th-wall stuff and other oddities, are really missing the point. The reason for using most of those techniques are to highlight the relationship between viewer and viewed, and stopping the thought process at "Oh neat, the wall was just broken, how weird," is really insufficient.

In other words, I agree with you that this movie shouldn't be enjoyed, but I think that was a calculated play on the part of the director -- it isn't meant to be enjoyed.
posted by voltairemodern at 8:56 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd like to take anyone who likes a movie like Funny Games, and kidnap them, and torture them.

Well, you haven't seen the film so it's kind of pointless for you to discuss it, no? I'll say that your attitude about the film is consistent with many people I know who've heard about it and not seen it. You're attempting to discuss it as if you know "what it's about" but you don't know what it's about. You're attempting to analyze it given the only parameters you have: other films you think it's like. But it's not like those films. It's a comment on those films. It makes you (well, not you, but me and others who admire it) question the violence in other films. That's part of its point.

Funny Games is both a thriller and a comment on the thriller. It is truly one of the only pieces of genre filmmaking I've ever seen which transcends its genre. I know that phrase is bandied about often, but it's usually not accurate. In this case, it is. (Respect to the OP but I think the film is a thriller, not a horrror.)

I've seen the film about a dozen times, almost always with an audience. In discussing the film with people afterwards they always talk about the violence within--but there is only one scene of violence on screen and it's not against any of the "heroes" of the story. It lasts a fraction of a second and is no more over the top than something you could see in a PG rated film or a cop show. Honestly. Every time I've seen this film in a theatre the audience has applauded this act of violence. (Then of course, they get very angry because, since Haneke knows it'll be applauded, he then takes what he's given them back.)

It takes tremendous skill to make a movie about violence that contains almost no onscreen violence, no music, no CGI, green screen or fancy camera moves and get such severe reactions from the audience. As someone with a life-long fascination with cinema, Haneke's films are a wonder--he does with film what very few people in the last quarter century have been able to do: elicit both visceral and intellectual responses from his audience with bare bones technique.

I suspect that if you see the film you will be very, very upset. You're supposed to be. I hope that if that's the case you ask yourself how it was done and why you're so upset... and then see the film again. I think you'll be surprised.
posted by dobbs at 9:10 PM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I like Funny Games because it is the only movie I know of that sets out to cause a massive emotional response in the viewer, only to explicitly and jarringly say, "This is just a movie, why are you getting so upset? These are actors. This is just a story. Some guy is choosing what happens next. Look, he can even choose to go back and re-do it as a joke! Why are you getting so upset about this when there are real things to get upset about?" So it provokes an interesting response that couldn't be achieved by other means.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:13 PM on September 7, 2007


@Dobbs--Well said.

I stand corrected: thriller.
posted by zerobyproxy at 9:41 PM on September 7, 2007


I was really shocked, and initially pretty bummed out, when I heard Haneke was remaking Funny Games - not least because I'd consider it a lesser film of his as compared to, say, The Seventh Continent, or Code Unknown. I've since grown to figure that, if anyone could pull it off, it's Haneke (but perhaps I'm just consoling myself).

Reading comments left on IMDb by people claiming to have seen the remake, it sounds very, very close to the original. If it does indeed go the shot-for-shot route, I'll be crushed. What's the point really IMO?

Also: I'm sorry, but asking people to opine about a film by showing them various YouTube clips is like asking people to look at paintings through a pinhole while you throw things at them, and then asking for their take on the paintings.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:43 PM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


East Manitoba: Thank you for being the only person in the thread that has said anything I can follow.

I've never understood people who want to watch cinema that makes them unhappy/disturbed/sad/upset. That's not an insult or a judgement, I just don't understand it.

Watching this film sounds like punishment for something, not anything approaching entertainment or leisure.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:58 PM on September 7, 2007


I suspect that if you see the film you will be very, very upset. You're supposed to be.

I don't get it, how would such a nakedly provocative film inspire anything more than apathy and boredom?

Not being a douche, and no, I'm not passing moral judgement on a film I haven't seen or its proponents, but despite dobbs' and East Manitoba's very interesting and intriguing analyses, it just sounds too obvious to inspire any sort of reaction in me.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:56 PM on September 7, 2007


as shown in that previous post, Haneke -- who, quite clearly, as dobbs had the patience to explain, can be considered the greatest living, working film director, especially now that the half-retired Bergman and Antonioni have passed away there really is nobody else to challenge him -- Haneke, I said, is all about creating discomfort. which goes completely against the grain of Hollywood film-making, of course, because Hollywood is all about the lowest common denominator, about not threatening anybody, about not challenging ideas, and especially, God forbid, Hollywood is about not making people feel stupid (essentially because they aim their movies at people who actually are, and hence don't like to be reminded).

and of course Hollywood, as Herr Doktor Haneke himself has pointed out in the past, accomplishes that dumbing down of cinema so successfully because they cannily employ what are essentially Nazi persuasion techniques. only, they do it smoothly, comfortably -- Hollywood is all about not challenging your comfort zone because that's bad for popcorn and soda sales.

so, now, who's the thug here, the director of cynical, expendable, dumb American romantic comedies or a serious person like Haneke? who's exploiting their audience?

the answer is obvious, and it's not Haneke, by any means.

some of us instead like the challenge of a Haneke movie, because we are willing to be fucked with by his ideas and his images, his creepily open-ended endings -- Haneke isn't really assuming he's being watched by morons, he respects his audience because is not about not showing creepy or appalling images, respect is saying, "look, I trust your intelligence, check this shit out, there's a lot of meat there and you can figure that out if you're willing to be challenged".

I'd much rather have to deal with that than with somebody who says "look how cute Orlando Bloom is! omg! adorable! and Kristen Dunst! Ooooooo! Now buy that big bucket of popcorn OK?". Haneke respects his audiences and respects cinema. may he live a long, productive artistic life for that -- god bless him.

it's also telling that the slams here are coming from people who haven't seen his films and judge them on the basis of an Internet synopsis -- a bit like slamming Verdi even if you have never heard a single note of his and have never entered a opera house in your life, just because a synopsis of Trovatore makes it look silly.


Try harder next time, okay?

O.K., let's see.

Three words: Sleepless in Seattle. Go rent that at Blockbuster, it's one of the many films they make exactly for people like you. Elizabethtown, too.

or go catch the 2007, 15-years-past-expiration-date Simpson film, that's another good one. I hear you can win this crazy yellow Bart Simpson Xbox360, too -- Haneke films, among their many shortcomings, are sadly lacking in corporate gadgets (I'm sure Gillette would have loved, loved, to market the blades Isabelle Huppert used to cut up her vagina in La Pianiste, and Kleenex could have given away for free replicas of the semen-encrusted towels Huppert licks at the peep show place! That's a winner, a marketer's dream! Or maybe a PS3 spattered with real pig blood to market Benny's Video?)

Haneke goes also completely against the grain of the marketer's sensibility -- he's all about not dumbing down reality to make a cheap, quick buck. I respect that.
posted by matteo at 3:39 AM on September 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


entertainment or leisure

Some think the cinema an entirely apt vehicle for thought; in fact, in their odd way, they find it the most potent medium of the twentieth century for the dissemination of ideas, ways of being, interrogations, derogations, and divagations.

Re: Greatest Living Filmmaker, I am told Jean-Luc Godard is still alive.
posted by Wolof at 4:00 AM on September 8, 2007


Chrissakes, some of you are batshit insane.
posted by hincandenza

I'm not the one who wants to torture people for liking a movie. Seek professional help. And some fucking perspective.
posted by slimepuppy at 4:42 AM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've never understood people who want to watch cinema that makes them unhappy/disturbed/sad/upset. That's not an insult or a judgement, I just don't understand it.

Well, here's the explanation. There are different types of satisfaction in life. One type is the satisfaction you get when you observe a piece of really good art. Good art does not come into being on its own; it has to be created by someone with an above-average understanding of some facet of human experience, together with the capacity to distill that insight into an artistic form, as well as the discipline and skill to be able to do so in such a way that other people will actually understand the art as the artist intended. Sometimes, the facet of human experience that the artist is illuminating is not particularly pleasant. But relative to the artistic accomplishment, that's just a detail. The greater satisfaction comes from appreciating the profound level at which another human being has managed to communicate with you about your own humanity.
posted by bingo at 7:27 AM on September 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


Haneke -- who, quite clearly, as dobbs had the patience to explain, can be considered the greatest living, working film director, especially now that the half-retired Bergman and Antonioni have passed away there really is nobody else to challenge him -- Haneke, I said, is all about creating discomfort.

Is that the entire point of art? Is the greatest artist the one who creates the greatest discomfort? (Note: I am not saying or implying that I do not think art should create discomfort.)
posted by languagehat at 7:39 AM on September 8, 2007


One type is the satisfaction you get when you observe a piece of really good art.

What you are describing is not satisfaction, by any stretch of the imagination. It should be a form of unease, a kind of disquieting sense that the world is out of kilter.

Good art is not satisfying. That's what kitsch is for.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:54 AM on September 8, 2007


Is that the entire point of art?

In a sense, I think so, because discomfort is often the result of provocation. To me, at its root, the purpose of art is to provoke.
posted by dobbs at 7:56 AM on September 8, 2007


Good art is not satisfying.

Rubbish.

To me, at its root, the purpose of art is to provoke.

Ah, well then we differ irrevocably. Provocation can certainly be a useful strategy, but the purpose of art (to me) is to satisfy the need for art. That can be done in all manner of ways. But any definition of art that relegates, say, Mozart to a lower plane because he doesn't "provoke" is a useless definition. (And if you're going to explain how Mozart really is being provocative because of blah blah blah, that's great, I'm glad you love Mozart enough to buy him a counterfeit ticket into your hall of fame, but only French theorists are going to agree with you, and they think Jerry Lewis is great. Note: Slam at French theorists is purely for purposes of humor. Do not smite.)
posted by languagehat at 9:21 AM on September 8, 2007


It should be a form of unease, a kind of disquieting sense that the world is out of kilter...Good art is not satisfying. That's what kitsch is for.

That's interesting. For me, the disquieting sense that the world is out of kilter comes from kitsch.
posted by bingo at 10:17 AM on September 8, 2007


I can't comment on Funny Games, having never seen the movie. However, as both an animator and avid movie watcher, I find all the "art is for x" pronouncements to be extremely problematic - that, along with the "greatest living movie director" hyperbole strikes me as being incredibly limiting to appreciation of the art form.

When I want something that will create a vague (or, less-than-vague) sense of the world being out of kilter, I'll watch "Lost Highway." When I want an unsentimental look at the joys of life and the power of imagination, I'll look at "My Neighbor Totoro." When I want to experience the pure, abstracted joys of perception, I'll turn to Stan Brakhage.

Having a lens through which you filter your movie watching experience can be a wonderful tool, but don't let it shut out all the other wonderful things about art and filmmaking.
posted by TheRoach at 10:58 AM on September 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


TheRoach gets a slimepuppy brownie point for name-checking my three favorite film makers in a single paragraph and simulatenously pretty much putting into words why I love the particular artform.

And as a little history lesson, everything that is being said about Haneke today was said about Wes Craven, George Romero, Tobe Hooper & Dario Argento and the other bad boys of horror in the sixties/seventies. Hell, I consider the move from the misogyny of the 80's to the general misanthropy of the 00's as progress.

Horror movies are as indicative of the time they were made in as any of the most prescient dramas. The same can be argued about romantic comedies, but they just ruffle fewer feathers among the unwashed masses (vice versa for us filmgeeks).
posted by slimepuppy at 12:16 PM on September 8, 2007


everything that is being said about Haneke today was said about Wes Craven, George Romero, Tobe Hooper & Dario Argento and the other bad boys of horror in the sixties/seventies

I'm really going to hate the US version of Funny Games more than I anticipated if it means that Haneke is going to start getting grouped with Craven et al in discussions of his work. No disrespect to that crew, but to put Haneke with them sort of dismisses every single other movie Haneke has made besides Funny Games, and misses the point of that one as well.
posted by General Zubon at 12:48 PM on September 8, 2007


Snyder , that's why Kubrick said very little about his films. He thought, and I agree, a film should speak for it self. Otherwise whats the point of film?

I agree as well. I don't think that a director (or any artist,) should answer all the questions that are presented in their work, and they certainly shouldn't pretend that they know how the audience feels about it. At best, it makes the director look pompous, at worst, it invalidates the whole piece, as well making the piece very heavy-handed. You also get the problem of the artist arguing with the audience, and while you can argue that artist understands his motivations best, it really begs the question regarding their ability to execute. That was one of my problems with Haneke's interview, that he had such certainty over why audiences reacted to certain scenes, and that people who had problems with the movie after watching the whole thing are essentially dismissed as hypocrites. Well, I only saw what was in the clips, does that make me a sound judge of this film.

Ultimately, good film doesn't need any explanation or defense. It can perhaps be interesting, as an appendix, but is not essential, and when the director is speaking authoritatively on what the audience is thinking and negating any possible ambiguities in favor of banal certainties (and this desire to make an entirely unambiguous
"message/moralizing" film probably makes it weaker art too,) then the entire film becomes irrelevant; we start debating what the value of what the director said, rather than the film itself.
posted by Snyder at 1:27 PM on September 8, 2007


And as a little history lesson, everything that is being said about Haneke today was said about Wes Craven, George Romero, Tobe Hooper & Dario Argento and the other bad boys of horror in the sixties/seventies.

Gosh, that's interesting. I had no idea that Craven was ever considered a master of minimalist, nuanced family drama.
posted by bingo at 1:59 PM on September 8, 2007


It doesn't take a genius to figure out I was referring to what is being said about Haneke in regards to Funny Games, what with it being the topic of the post we're discussing. Drag the rest of his ouvre into this if you like, but for the majority of people who will be seeing the remake this will be their first contact with Haneke. (I've personally only seen Funny Games and Cache). I'm aware of Cache and his other films being a different genre from Funny Games, but neither of you honestly see the connection between Funny Games and Last House on the Left, including the criticism that was piled against it on release?

The tagline to Last House is 'To avoid fainting, keep repeating "It's only a movie...It's only a movie..."' So it's not like Haneke is the first one to wink at his audience in between killing people.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:29 PM on September 8, 2007


I don't think I lasted more than 20 minutes before turning it off in revulsion. I was upset and disturbed that someone close to me had recommended it. He was able to see the film as an interesting meditation on violence and all that, but to me it was almost indistinguishable from witnessing actual torture. I might as well have been watching closed circuit camera footage from Guantanamo -- that's how powerfully I reacted.

I hate this movie.
posted by nev at 2:30 PM on September 8, 2007


I suppose I could've mentioned Michael Powell's Peeping Tom as a closer example of a poorly understood (on release at least) horror movie from a director not known for making movies in that particular genre. And since we're talking about self-reflexive film making, it's even more explicitly about audience involvement in the acts being committed on-screen. And predates Funny Games by 37 years.

Don't get me wrong, I like Haneke, he's a really interesting director with a profound understanding of the artform, but he didn't exactly invent the wheel with Funny Games.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:44 PM on September 8, 2007


RE: Last House on the Left vs. Funny Games. It has been years since I've seen the Wes Craven movie, but I do remember coming away from it feeling like i'd been played for a fool, exposed to violence with no purpose to other than to enrich those people who funded it. Exploitation, in other words.

Whereas Funny Games actually make you think about violence in movies, the pleasure of voyeurism, movie narrative and suspense vs. morality, reality vs. fantasy etc. In short, it's a commentary on exploitation. I came out of it feeling a bit less foolish.

Big difference.
posted by dydecker at 2:45 PM on September 8, 2007


What if I were to rephrase your statement, nev, to this:

"I don't think I lasted more than 20 minutes before turning it off in revulsion. I was upset and disturbed that someone close to me had recommended it. He was able to see the mural as an interesting meditation on violence and all that, but to me it was almost indistinguishable from witnessing actual torture. I might as well have been watching closed circuit camera footage from Guantanamo -- that's how powerfully I reacted. Goya is horrible!

I hate this painting."

Have you ever reacted this way? Or reacted that way to song or book? My belief is that your reaction is a testament to Haneke's ability to show the audience exactly what he wants in the exact way that he wishes. To me, that is the hallmark of excellent cinema. That fact that a director can move me, in any particular direction, is fascinating to me because it is so incredibly rare.
posted by zerobyproxy at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2007


To me, that is the hallmark of excellent cinema. That fact that a director can move me, in any particular direction, is fascinating to me because it is so incredibly rare.

Huh? Moving the audience in a particular direction is the bread and butter of all entertainment, it's not "incredibly rare." Show a little child in danger, they'll tense up and be afraid; show a little puppy, they'll go "Awww!" And if you show/imply awful torture, you're going to shake them up. Where's the genius in that?
posted by languagehat at 5:32 PM on September 8, 2007


Children react to things because they do not understand them. Their understanding of the world is so simple that seeing/experiencing something outside of it is amazing to them (IMO). To make adults react in the same way is entirely more difficult because we have a much greater field of reference. There is a huge difference.

Adults watching children's movies seems to define American cinema.

For my own point of reference, I would love to know what films have moved you. What was the last film that overwhelmed you?
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:46 PM on September 8, 2007


I was talking about adult audiences, not children. Adults are easily moved/shocked/amused. Unless they've taken so many Media Theory courses they can only react to X-Treme Movies.
posted by languagehat at 5:50 PM on September 8, 2007


And please lose the tired slam at America. Audiences the world over prefer simplistic melodramas and dumb comedies. This is why many countries force theaters and broadcasters to show X percent local product; otherwise, with only market forces at work, they'd all be gobbling up Hollywood crap.
posted by languagehat at 5:52 PM on September 8, 2007


I was referring to your comment "Show a little child in danger, they'll tense up and be afraid; show a little puppy, they'll go "Awww!" And if you show/imply awful torture, you're going to shake them up. Where's the genius in that?.

I totally disagree about adult audiences. They are easily amused but that is about it. They have no pallet for anything except the edges of the extreme. "Ouch my balls" is not too far off base (Idiocracy) in terms of what the public wants.

America has the strongest marketing apparatus in the world. Hands down. No one does it is as well. If Hollywood can squeeze $3 million from Sri Lanka and the margins are good, they will do it.

The slam is against the American product generally. I say product and not film for a reason. In some ways it is like corporate art. you know it is art, but it is...different...not as original...was bought and paid for...it's ends is just what you see...nothing more. It is an over generalization on my part, for sure.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:05 PM on September 8, 2007


This discussion is a bit silly to me, especially since it seems propelled by those who actually haven't seen Haneke's films ... but I'll bite.

Languagehat: Do you believe an 'awww' reaction to a puppy is akin to transcendental cinema (or art, for that matter)? I've found quite a few puppies cute in my time but the amazing feeling I get from real, affective, and thought-provoking art is rare indeed. I maybe genuinely encounter these feelings a couple times a year, if lucky. It's such a different thing and impossible for me to explain, especially on a MeFi board.

I'm asking the question above because I'm not sure if you're purposefully trying to simplify this to get a reaction or if you really, honestly, haven't experienced such highs. As someone whose life has been greatly enriched by meaningful works (even ones that have disturbed me at first) and who wishes those moments for all, I hope it's the former.
posted by General Zubon at 6:07 PM on September 8, 2007


Ow my balls.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:08 PM on September 8, 2007


Go rent that at Blockbuster, it's one of the many films they make exactly for people like you

Oh, man, matteo, you REALLY have cut me to the quick. How well you know me, and my maudlin mainstream sensibilities. Oh no wait, I meant to say: go fuck yourself, you elitist douchebag.
posted by jonson at 9:21 PM on September 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I actually like a good deal of Haneke's work, but I couldn't stand this. Not for the violence, which to my eyes actually seemed pretty, forgive me, tepid, but because of the maddening contempt that Haneke has for his audience throughout. I could just see him off in some corner, rubbing his hands together. "They want to see a violent movie, eh? Then they must be punished!" The whole thing just seemed like the most sanctimonious, pretentious twaddle, and it was undercut by seeming to a response to an extremely facile reading of US horror films such as Last House on the Left, as slimepuppy noted.

I'm sure the remake will generate a huge buzz and decent ticket sales, though, since the film is pretty much designed so that every two-bit film critic for a regional paper can use it as a chance to trot out his or her thoughts on the weighty subject of Violence in the Media.
posted by whir at 12:20 AM on September 9, 2007


Languagehat: Do you believe an 'awww' reaction to a puppy is akin to transcendental cinema (or art, for that matter)?

Don't be ridiculous. I was responding to the idiotic statement that the ability to move an audience "in a particular direction" is "incredibly rare." If zerobyproxy meant "real, affective, and thought-provoking art" he could have said that.

Obviously, transcendental cinema (or art, for that matter) is hard to achieve, and I'm very grateful to it when I experience it. I think that equating it with "provocation" is adolescent bullshit.

If you're curious, my favorite directors include Renoir, Godard, Bresson, Ozu, Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, Souleymane Cissé, Altman, Coppola, Tarkovsky, Bertolucci (in his heyday), Fassbinder, Edward Yang, and Chris Marker. And Brakhage, but that's a whole different reel.
posted by languagehat at 5:35 AM on September 9, 2007


@languagehat--You're right. I could have phrased things differently or more precisely. In my layman's terms "moving someone" equates to a film that isn't just crapped out of your system once you have watched it. I find most films today aren't meant to stay with you. Aren't thought provoking. Aren't meant for you to discuss, really. In other words, I don't think that they "move you" at all. They are images tied together with some other things added in.

Thanks for posting the directors list as well. I was trying to find a thread between Kiarostami and Haneke for the original post. This is to say, Kiarostami and Haneke control the image so well. Their economy of frames is fantastic.

In your opinion, is Haneke a good director at all or do you think all of his works are provocations?
posted by zerobyproxy at 7:01 AM on September 9, 2007


Thanks for your clarification. The only Haneke movie I've seen is Caché, and I enjoyed it a lot right up until I realized he was just fucking with the audience (me). Since it seems to be the case that his entire aim in life is to fuck with the audience, the odds of my seeing another of his movies are slim. He's clearly tremendously technically accomplished, but the "punch in the nose" approach to art is not one I favor. It's certainly a valid approach, but it's been done, and I don't see the need to do it over and over and over to prove that, hey, you can still épater les bourgeois or whatever.
posted by languagehat at 8:18 AM on September 9, 2007


languagehat : Thank you as well for the clarification. I'm glad I was merely misunderstanding you.

I also can relate to your directors list ... especially Tarkovsky, who I feel supplies important viewing for anyone who doesn't understand what we mean by 'transcendental cinema'.

How did you see Cache as 'fucking with you'? I'm curious. I know people interpreted the final scene just prior to the credits as a taunt to the audience but, as I missed what happened in this scene at first viewing, the film affected me outside of that. Is there something else you got from it?

Back to Funny Games: it's hardly my favorite Haneke (Seventh Continent and Cache have done a lot more to haunt me) and I don't think I'm planning on seeing the remake prior to DVD release. However, this thread inspired me to read some of the test screening reviews floating about on the web. I'm intrigued as there are are complaints (from those who obviously haven't encountered Haneke before) of long, static shots of 'nothing'. It's been a while, but I don't recall a preponderance of such shots in the original Funny Games as I do in later Haneke such as Cache. I find it interesting that Haneke may have redone his older film using the camera in this way. Though these long shots are trademarks of the director, in Cache they helped imply "surveillance" ... in the new Funny Games the technique may more so imply "voyeur". Wait and see (if you want), I suppose.

I'm also curious how others may see Austria-based Haneke, and Funny Games and its 'provocative' intention, in relation to late 20th century Viennese art movements ... more specifically the Actionists ...
posted by General Zubon at 8:53 AM on September 9, 2007


How did you see Cache as 'fucking with you'? I'm curious.

I find it hard to see how that could be hard to understand, but here's a plot summary from IMDb:
Georges, who hosts a TV literary review, receives packages containing videos of himself with his family--shot secretly from the street--and alarming drawings whose meaning is obscure. He has no idea who may be sending them. Gradually, the footage on the tapes becomes more personal, suggesting that the sender has known Georges for some time. Georges feels a sense of menace hanging over him and his family but, as no direct threat has been made, the police refuse to help....
The whole thing is set up as a thriller. [WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD!] The plot is never resolved. Various possibilities are brought up and shot down, but it ends with no resolution at all. I call that fucking with the audience. And yes, I realize the very lack of resolution is an expression of postmodern bla bla bla, but it's a postmodern cliché, it's been done, I'm bored with it, if you're going to show me a thriller give me some resolution.
posted by languagehat at 10:31 AM on September 9, 2007


SPOILER FOR CACHE:

My take on it was as a meditation on the French/Algerian conflict. (Haneke notes that this film could have been shot just about anywhere in the world--and found a comparable history). There wasn't a national "resolution" regarding the actions of the French government. The painful past and the lack of resolution are "hidden" in plain sight.

The resolution in the film (IMO) is that the reconciliation takes place by other generations (the meeting of the sons) who pay for the sins of their fathers (perhaps both had filmed the video tapes)--OR--the Algerian son was not in league with Georges' son and was about to continue the cycle of violence.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2007


zerobyproxy's interpretation of Cache is similar to mine, coupled with a layer about a 'surveillance society' we live in and how this is now a way of modern life that we might as well get used to. Thus I found the ending appropriate and I didn't feel 'fucked with' at all.

Granted, different interpretations are a part of what makes art great & fun, but I find it unfortunate that languagehat's particular interpretation of Cache will cause him to steer clear of Haneke's other works.

That said, languagehat, I do think you'd really dislike Funny Games.
posted by General Zubon at 11:16 AM on September 9, 2007


Both Caché and Funny Games bored me to death. I didn't find any point in Funny Games beyond apparent juvenile anti-middle-class vitriol and "let me attempt to shock you into acknowledging you're a nasty voyeur for watching violent movie!!1". I don't need a shitty film telling me what I already know.

Caché may have had something interesting to say about the aftermath of French colonialism, but why wrap it in two hours of serial tedium? Just to lull the audience down for that one big surprise shot? Cheap.
posted by Anything at 2:37 PM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


My take on it was as a meditation on the French/Algerian conflict

Yeah. See, that's precisely why those of us in the peanut gallery don't "get" high cinema.

I know I'm a simpleton so please don't throw film canisters at me, but I actually think film is the wrong medium to try to relay complex metaphors in.

In literature, we are having to imagine everything. It seems "easier" to think of one thing representing another.

In film, our dominant sense, sight, is being completely directed and fed everything. We are accustomed to believing what we see almost without question.

The very fact that a movie about a man and his family being watched by some menacing voyeur is REALLY supposed to be about the French/Algerian conflict... I just don't know what to say.

If I see some creepy guy masturbating while watching the girls' field hockey team playing, my first instinct is not going to be "wow, he must be making a nuanced indictment against the openness of our online lives and the easy access to media of under-aged girls, and the possible disturbing usage of that media".
posted by Ynoxas at 5:05 PM on September 9, 2007


languagehat writes "Provocation can certainly be a useful strategy, but the purpose of art (to me) is to satisfy the need for art.

Why is there a need for art?

That can be done in all manner of ways. But any definition of art that relegates, say, Mozart to a lower plane because he doesn't 'provoke' is a useless definition."

There is more to art than Mozart.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:15 PM on September 9, 2007


Ynoxas writes "I actually think film is the wrong medium to try to relay complex metaphors in.

Perhaps some people's creative vision is not for everyone. That's OK.

"In literature, we are having to imagine everything. It seems 'easier' to think of one thing representing another."

Really?

I agree that some metaphors are better than others, complex or not.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:22 PM on September 9, 2007


@ynoxas--I take it from your comments that you haven't seen the film because it openly deals with the French/Algerian conflict and the characters actions are a metaphor for issues that remain unsettled. So it wasn't a deep dig for me to come to that conclusion. That said, everyone gets what they want to out of a film.
posted by zerobyproxy at 8:11 PM on September 9, 2007


The very fact that a movie about a man and his family being watched by some menacing voyeur is REALLY supposed to be about the French/Algerian conflict... I just don't know what to say.

Beyond the mere plot synopsis (not sure if you've seen the film) there is the fact that {SPOILERS) the major character of Majid, suspected of the surveillance, is an Algerian whose parents were killed by French policemen (if I remember correctly) in the midst of the unrest of 1961 Paris. The film was also made surrounded by a modern resurgence of unrest in Paris, if you remember, of which descendants of Algerian nationals played a part. Understandably it may not be your history but I would imagine this layer in the film would be easier to interpret by the French people to whom it is recent history.

(on preview, what zerobyproxy said)

I'm not French so I didn't really get this layer until I thought about it later and discussed it a bit, but I still greatly enjoyed Cache just on the basis of its other statements on surveillance culture (as I mentioned above).

I'm not saying one has to like it ... that's cool if not. But these intentions and layers (sorry I keep using that term) are there, and I find that admirable of the writer/director rather than something to despise.

On a side note, and to tie this somewhat to a thread on Haneke remakes : have you heard the rumors that Ron Howard is planning to helm a remake of Cache?
posted by General Zubon at 8:26 PM on September 9, 2007


zerobyproxy and general zubon:

Thanks for clarifying. That doesn't sound like as much of a reach as it did at first.

I've known people who see deep meaning in every movie, which seems to be either a) completely manufactured or b) knowable only by some statement or other by the director.

As a silly example, the movie Airplane! as a metaphor for the U.S. automotive industry of the 70's and 80's, completely deaf and impartial to their customer base, being led by timid and unreliable leaders who were stuck in the past and not able to respond to a changing marketplace.

I'm not saing that about this case, because you guess correctly I have not seen the film, but I've been told this sort of thing so many times (the doll on the table is representative of their lost childhood, the red dress it wears a sign of sexual abuse) I just kind of assume at this point.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:02 PM on September 9, 2007


And yes, I realize the very lack of resolution is an expression of postmodern bla bla bla

Got pretty well reamed on that one.
posted by Wolof at 5:58 AM on September 10, 2007


Got pretty well reamed on that one.

No, I don't think so. But thanks for trying to pile on.
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on September 10, 2007


We do our feeble best. But the whole "I must have my narrative resolution as promised in the brochure" is a little doddery too.

You've often written here of your admiration for Godard. Why are similar techniques never to be used again?
posted by Wolof at 1:23 AM on September 11, 2007


Don't know what you mean by "similar techniques." Godard took some signifiers of the classic American thriller/road movie/whatever and tossed them into a joyous, freewheeling collage with scraps of French poetry, political commentary, and humor to create sui generis productions that could certainly be offputting to the unwary (I hated Masculin féminin the first time I saw it) but could not possibly be mistaken for an actual thriller/whatever; anyone who sat through the first five minutes of Breathless and expected it to resolve à la Hollywood might as well have been mulched and used as fertilizer. That's not what Haneke is doing at all. He's deliberately setting you up to believe that the interesting and mysterious situation he's creating has an explanation that will be provided in due course, and he takes tremendous pleasure in pulling the rug out from under you (while making you Think about the Evils of Colonialism, of course—I'd much rather have Godard's forthright expedient of having an Algerian face the camera, break the fourth wall, and talk to you about it, even though I tend to be impatient with those parts of his movies). To me, he's the intellectual/artistic equivalent of the guy who invites you to smell a flower that then squirts water at you.

Needless to say, this is just one man's opinion, with no general applicability. I may well have a blind spot, as I did for so long with, say, Cecil Taylor. I'm glad other pointy-headed intellectuals are able to take such pleasure in his films; he clearly knows what he's doing and does it (by his and their lights) well. But it's not my cup of postmodern tea.
posted by languagehat at 5:24 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Don't know what you mean by "similar techniques."

Herr Brecht is waiting outside in the hall with a giant butter-covered broomstick for you. He bought it off Viktor Shklovskii.

I will, however, agree that the absolutely shittiest miss in new-ish film is the thriller. For mine, this is the best genre of all and the hardest to pull off (oo! err!).

One Soderbergh is less for me than a quarter of a Pakula.

And one Pakula is worth at the current rates a quarter of a Costa-Gavras and a centilitre of a Hitchcock.
posted by Wolof at 5:58 AM on September 11, 2007


languagehat writes "He's deliberately setting you up to believe that the interesting and mysterious situation he's creating has an explanation that will be provided in due course, and he takes tremendous pleasure in pulling the rug out from under you (while making you Think about the Evils of Colonialism, of course—I'd much rather have Godard's forthright expedient of having an Algerian face the camera, break the fourth wall, and talk to you about it, even though I tend to be impatient with those parts of his movies). To me, he's the intellectual/artistic equivalent of the guy who invites you to smell a flower that then squirts water at you."

Though the central mystery that propels the plot is never fully resolved, and the secondary mystery of Pierrot's disappearance turns out to be a red herring, the movie does have a resolution in a larger sense: we do get the full arc of the relationship between Georges and Majid spelled out for us, and we get, I think, a complete understanding of the feelings of guilt Georges has towards Majid's life and death. So while the plot is unresolved, the characterization is ultimately resolved and, I think, satisfying. This distinguishes the film from a pure postmodern experiment in absence-of-plot or absence-of-resolution.

But I still think the final scene is a bit of a fuck-you to the audience.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:07 AM on September 12, 2007


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