Big Screen Ballyhoo – “Amour”

Have you ever noticed that foreign films really seem quite foreign? Not just because of the language or whatnot… they just feel different than American/Western films.

“Amour” is certainly no exception. Directed by Michael Haneke, with Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actress and Best Foreign Film (Austria), “Amour” definitely stands out when compared to its fellow Best Picture nominees.

The movie is a rather simple concept: An elderly couple, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), live together in their apartment in Paris. They are retired music teachers with a daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert) who lives abroad in the UK, I believe. The movie is mostly a slice of life style film, focused entirely on the lives of Anne and Georges inside their apartment.

One day, Anne spaces out for a period of several seconds, if not minutes, prompting a visit to the doctor. While she abhors visits to the doctor, it’s discovered that Anne has had a stroke. The surgery to remove the clot goes wrong, leaving Anne partially paralyzed. Anne despairs, not wanting to live in this condition, while Georges despairs that she’s telling the truth. Anne’s condition worsens after a second stroke, limiting her to near paralysis and extremely simple speech, such as repeating the word “Hurt” over and over.

I’m personally surprised that only Riva received a Best Acting Oscar nomination, although the Best Actor category was quite contentious. Still, Tringtignant did a rather fantastic job acting opposite of his wife, a man struggling with the same decision everyone that sees a despairing and invalid loved one struggles with: Be selfish and keep them around or end their suffering?

Still, the movie is distinctly foreign in feel. Confined to one location, there is very little musical backing to speak of anywhere in the film, forcing the acting to be the focus of attention. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are moments where I felt the movie dragged on a bit, perhaps.

It is, though, a pretty compelling story with some fantastic acting in it. The movie is in French, though, meaning subtitles are required for the majority of Americans, something I know many people dislike. Still, I’d say give it a chance… but it’s certainly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I’d definitely say this is one of the more artistic films of the year as opposed to a crowd pleaser.

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