20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHO IS WATCHING?
The film opens with a static long shot of a private villa nestled between buildings of lesser standing on a quiet Parisian street, over which the credits appear in a teletypewriter fashion. Nothing is happening except for an occasional passer-by hurrying across the screen. After a while, the image is shown going backward: we then realize that we were watching a video...
Published on May 22, 2006 by Tintin
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is that all there is?
A lot of the negative reviews of this film seem to come from people who don't like arthouse cinema, and/or political art, and/or ambiguity, and/or subtitles. Accordingly, a lot of people who appreciate some or all of those things might dismiss the negative reviews. I dig all of the above, but I think critics have lavishly overpraised Cache. The political subtext is too...
Published on January 2, 2007 by gregmag
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHO IS WATCHING?,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)The film opens with a static long shot of a private villa nestled between buildings of lesser standing on a quiet Parisian street, over which the credits appear in a teletypewriter fashion. Nothing is happening except for an occasional passer-by hurrying across the screen. After a while, the image is shown going backward: we then realize that we were watching a video recording that protagonist Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) is rewinding on his VCR, after having viewed it on his television set. We then see, this time from the point of view of the camera, Georges and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) watching the video of their own villa on their television. This VHS tape, sent anonymously, had materialized mysteriously at their doorstep.
Georges is a prominent television personality who hosts a literary program, and Anne works for a publishing house. They have an adolescent son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). Together, they form a family of ordinary bourgeois, living a quiet and comfortable life, protected from the outside world by money and culture, surrounded by an homogeneous circle of friends. Soon, another tape appears, wrapped in a childish drawing of a child throwing up blood. Pierrot is also the recipient of the same drawing at his school. Later on, as the Laurents are hosting a dinner, someone rings the front door bell: nobody is at the door but another videotape is left, once more wrapped up in a childish sketch depicting a bird (a chicken?) with its neck cut off and bleeding. This video, shot from inside a car, shows a country road leading to the farm of Georges' parents, where Georges was raised.
Who is filming? What at first was thought to be a prank or some kind of bad joke starts to worry both Georges and Anne. They go to the police, who refuse to do anything, since there has been no overt threat or blackmail of any kind. A climate of tension and paranoia settles in, and Georges decides to solve the mystery himself. Obviously, the author of these videos appears to know a lot about Georges and his past. Little by little, Georges seems to remember some childhood events involving Majid, the son of Algerian farmhands who worked on his parents' farm.
The Algerian couple had been killed on 17 October, 1961, during a peaceful demonstration organized by the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) against a curfew imposed on all Algerian citizens in Paris. France Interior Minister Frey and Police Prefect Papon ordered that this demonstration be handled "properly," an order which resulted in the death of up to two hundred Algerians, most of whom drowned when they were thrown by the police into the Seine. One must also recall that during WWII, the same Papon served under the Vichy Government in the same capacity, and was directly involved in the deportation of the French Jews to the German concentration camps-- if one thing can be said about Papon is that he was not a racist: Moslems, Jews, all the same to him. (Papon was FINALLY sentenced in 1998 for crimes against humanity, but only served three years...)
Following the death of his parents, Georges' parents were ready to adopt young Majid (Walid Afkir). However, the six-year-old Georges strongly resented his new bother-to-be and tried his best to discredit him in the eyes of his parents. First, Georges pushed young Majid to commit a violent act toward a farm animal, a rooster, and then told his parents that Majid was spitting blood and thus was most likely infected with tuberculosis. Confronted with this apparent truth of young Majid's character and his physical condition, Georges' parents did not adopt him, but instead sent him to an orphanage. Georges never saw Majid again, but he becomes more and more convinced that Majid has re-appeared, seeking to revenge the wrong done to him.
The situation created by these disturbing drawings and videos shows how much Georges and Anne, contrary to the appearances, have drifted apart from one another. Georges is not forthcoming about his suspicions, which would also reveal his youthful cruelty. Anne assumes Georges' silence regarding his suspicions indicates his lack of trust, making her question their relationship. Georges seems to have a clear conscience, so much so that he tries to identify the mysterious stalker, but as he stubbornly tries to preserve his social and familial status quo, he only succeeds in getting into deeper trouble.
Suffice to say that if Cache were a Hollywood pabulum production, the rest of the film would be quite predictable. But this is a film by anti-conformist and provocateur Michael Haneke, who is known to play with his viewers, destabilizing them by using non-conventional mise-en-scenes, enjoying putting his viewers in the difficult and uncomfortable position of voyeurs. So, I must stop here my recalling of the film's synopsis, lest I spoil prospective viewers' enjoyment of the film.
Cache is a psychological thriller, clinical and cold, but also fascinating, which invites the viewer to carry on his or her own investigation as the film progresses. It recalls one of the best French thrillers ever made, Le Corbeau (1943), Henri-Georges Clouzot's film about a French village torn apart by a series of poison-pen letters. As with all his other films, the screenplay of Cache is by Haneke. The violence shown here is not physical, as in Haneke's past films, in particular as in Funny Games, except for one flash in a long take toward the middle of the film, which sends the theatre audience gasping in unison. In Cache, the primary violence is psychological, but the result on the viewer is the same as if it was physical. Once more Haneke works with the same material as he did in his trilogy of "emotional glaciation:" a bourgeois family with an adolescent son confronted with an exterior menace, which is materialized by images. From the very first long plan-sequence of an unremarkable scene, an unfathomable, frightening feeling surfaces. As the minutes tick by, it is not the eye of the camera but our own which is alert to the slightest noise, the slightest change. The rewinding of the video tape comes as liberation, but at the same time it confirms our anguish. Haneke mixes up the filmed reality with the reality of the film, depriving us of any point of reference, and we are left with a feeling of anguish, loneliness, and finally distress. Not only are the camera and its operator hidden from view, but the act of filming itself is also hidden from our senses. Nevertheless, everything in the plot follows and develops from the clues left by each drawing and each video tape. The
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars psychotic withdrawal,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)As a boy of 6 Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteil) was responsible for what some might consider to be an atrotious crime: he lied about something and the result was that another boy's life was changed forever. Arguably you cannot hold a six-year-old responsible for the fate of another child and yet what is fascinating is that even when Georges Laurent has reached middle-age he still refuses to acknowledge anything like remorse or regret. His way of dealing with his own demons is to withdrawal into himself, to sleep, but even that is no escape for the past still presses in on him through recurring dreams.
As far as we know Georges has been having these dreams even before the videos start arriving and he may have been having them his entire life. This may explain why as a middle-aged man Georges is bitter and suffers from an inability to connect to others. Instead of connecting to other people he isolates himself behind a wall of books and videos (every wall in his house is lined with books and/ or videos). It would seem Georges prefers the impersonality of books and films to people. Thus it is fitting that he should be a host of a television book chat show for on the show he simply asks a set of formulaic questions, and he can control the content (as well as his own persona) with editing. Georges' wife Anne organizes all of their social functions and really it would seem that the group of friends is really her reponsibility, not his. At social gatherings he seems too preoccupied with his own life to give any attention to others. Georges simply seems frozen and remote. When the mysterious packages start arriving he thinks he knows where they are coming from (even though in truth we never know where they are coming from or why they are being sent) but he refuses to share his thoughts with his wife. This causes extreme marital stress and Anna (Juliette Binoche) is pushed to her breaking point--not so much because she fears the tapes or what they might mean but because she fears that her husband cannot tell her the truth about himself or anything else. Their own son, interestingly named Pierrot (who is approximately the same age as Georges was when the events happened), also suffers because his parents cannot tell him exactly what it is that is causing all of the stress in their lives. This family is not simply dysfunctional, it is in a state of total breakdown.
The film is reminiscent of Haneke's THE PIANO TEACHER because this film is also about a sociopath. What makes this film potentially more disturbing, however, is that while THE PIANO TEACHER did shocking things we could at least attempt to explain these things away by reference to her traumatic childhood. But in CACHE Georges, a young boy of six brought up with every conceivable privilege, does a shocking thing and we have no way of understanding why. How can a six-year old do something so cruel? And then keep that cruel act locked up inside for so long? On that day when he was six he ruined not only the other boys life but his own as well. We might say to ourselves that he could not have possibly known exactly what it was that he was doing and why he was doing it but can we know that for certain?
I think the film asks where does cruelty come from, and where does selfishness come from and where does racism come from? What are the reasons, what are the rationales behind these things? And since we cannot say with any certainty where these things come from we feel helpless to find a cure.
A disturbing film that will annoy those who feel like its unfair of filmmakers to give us clues with no real way of finding any definitive solutions to the "mystery". The film will appeal to those who like psychological case studies.
34 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The film is a mirror,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)Reviewer reactions to this film seem to say more about the reviewer than they do about the film, especially the negative ones. I too watched the film expecting "merely" a good thriller. I, however, was captivated by the slow long shots and the building tension. Like many, I initally found the ending sudden, unsatisfying, and unsettling. What! It's over now?!? But knowing that the film was highly acclaimed led me to immediately question that reaction. I scanned backwards and watched the final 5 minutes or so several times. I also THOUGHT about what I had seen, carefully. I went to bed convinced that I had seen a very good, possibly great film, but not sure that I had understood it yet. The next morning I couldn't stop thinking about the film. That is one definition of a great film.
Rather than complain about the way the movie was put together, one could decide to investigate why it is done that way, why so many others speak of this as an amazing film. For example, one reviewer below claims that the wife character (Juliette Binoche) is "not guilty of anything". I wouldn'tnecessarily say that. The film suggests very strongly that she is, or at least could be. Why does the son accuse her of having an affair? Where did he get that idea, and does it have anything to do with who he meets in the final shot? There is much much more going on in this film then the negative reviewers have bothered to see. This is the sort of movie that whole books will be written about, the kind of film studied shot by shot in university classes. The film is simultaneously about national/international politics, racism, marriage, and the socio-psychology of trust, guilt, and denial at many levels.
It's true that there are no easy "solutions" to the mystery, and that's part of the point of the film. And of course that is also often the case for Hitchcock (e.g. The Birds). If you are looking for a more conventional mystery with neatly explained "answers" then this is not for you, but if you are looking for an inellectual adventure that will move you subtly, deeply this is a good choice.
And oh yes, you will gasp at one scene. I'm not easily taken by surprise and see the "plot twists" such as they are in most Hollywood movies long before they happen, but this film managed to puzzle me and shock me.
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is that all there is?,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)A lot of the negative reviews of this film seem to come from people who don't like arthouse cinema, and/or political art, and/or ambiguity, and/or subtitles. Accordingly, a lot of people who appreciate some or all of those things might dismiss the negative reviews. I dig all of the above, but I think critics have lavishly overpraised Cache. The political subtext is too near the surface to tell us anything beyond Georges' brief but welcome account of the actual Oct. 17 massacre. The characters are underdeveloped, and their relationship therefore isn't engaging; I don't get how anyone who has seen "Knife in the Water" or, hell, "Dead Calm" can consider this a great psychological thriller. The oft-repeated notion that the film delivers "gasps" is laughable. For good or ill, that isn't remotely this film's game. I like the creepy evocation of voyeurism, especially in the film's gradual blurring of lines between its own narrative and the videotapes, but by the time the last scene dropped the big "Huh?," nothing about the story, themes, or emotional texture of Cache made me care to ponder for more than a few seconds what the hell had happened. Based on the many great reviews by smart and thoughtful people, I expected a lot from this film. I haven't been so disappointed in a long time.
17 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 STARS) Emotionally Disturbing Modern-Day Allegory,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)Many reviewers refer to `Hidden' as thriller, or something like thriller. I can understand why the term should be used to describe the nature of this strangely attractive film - you see, the film opens with a mysterious video tape that suggests the presence of a stalker taping the life of an ordinary family. But perhaps you can also see Michael Haneke's film as modern-day fable about the fragile nature of our daily life, of which comfortable peacefulness is just as skin-deep as possible, as the happily married couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) would find themselves.
As I said, the film starts with a video that taped the house of one Georges Laurent, popular host of TV program. Someone has left it at the front door of his house and keeps sending the tapes without leaving any message.
The second and third tapes are more curious because one of them is about an old house where Georges had been living as a boy. The other video is even stranger because the images seem to be inviting Georges to go to one particular room where he had never been to.
The film is not so much about the identity of the sender as about the life of Georges that begins to undergo a drastic change. The film's premise that deals with the concept of paranoia might remind you of Coppola's `The Conversations,' but Haneke's film is unique in suggesting the political relations between France and Algeria, and his idea about belonging to the middle-class in France or Europe. The casting of Daniel Auteuil is actually a very clever one for he is really born in Algeria, which gives a credible tone to the film together with his good acting.
[WARNING!!] Two things must be said about the film. One is that it includes some unnerving images like the beheading of a rooster. Though the film avoids showing them directly on the screen, they may be shocking to some viewers.
The other is about the film's last shot, where Haneke (literally) has hidden a clue or clues as to what happened in the film. Actually, it is just a clue that might be interpreted in more than one way, not a definite answer as some of the reviewers think. Probably some of you might not notice THEM there, but Haneke thinks it is still OK even if you fail to notice.
The complaint about the pretentiousness of the film should be justified to some extent, and you may say not many people would play the video tape with your VCR when sent from a stranger. Juliette Binoche's role also needs more improvement for it does not show anything new except the typical image of suffering wife. But as allegory about the way we live now, `Hidden' remains very strong from the beginning to the end.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Productive frustration,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)(This comment may contain spoilers)
I wasn't prepared for how powerful Caché turned out to be: it's been a long time since I've heard an entire cinema gap in genuine shock at one sequence. On the surface it's a fairly typical French film, but it's what's under the surface that really counts. That said, it's still a film that many dismiss as empty or dilettante filmmaking, either because it's more concerned with the fallout its mystery provokes than offering a solution or because it's just trendy liberalism. It's certainly not for all tastes.
The central premise is simple enough, as Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche's comfortable bourgeois life is put under increasing strain by a series of videotapes of the their house accompanied by childish drawings of bleeding faces. The tapes show nothing: their menace comes not from their contents but the fact that they exist. Since the drawings have to come from someone who knows the character's past, is it Auteuil's Georges' own conscience that is sending them? Or is it the filmmaker himself to provoke a reaction from his characters? Significantly the tapes are all shot on a fixed camera mounted on a raised tripod in what must be a clearly visible position. The appearance of the second tape blocking a doorway that was clear earlier in the shot offers little else in the way of a possible natural explanation.
But the tapes are really just a Maguffin, a narrative device to push the characters and plot forward. This particular lost highway leads into the past, and France's inability to apologise for it's colonial past (specifically Algeria), something it absolves itself of all guilt from by repeating the mantra that it was all in the past when they were much younger and knew no better, as if that wipes out thousands of futures denied or stolen. It's no accident that the film revolves around a failed adoption that mirrors France's own failed colonisations.
While the characters are believable rather than Godardian or art-house archetypes, it's easy to ascribe a wider allegorical purpose to them. Georges is a reflection of France itself, outwardly respectable but denying his past and not acknowledging guilt over Algeria (significantly, Auteuil was born there). He simply doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't even connect emotionally with his present, let alone his past, mother, son and wife all a part of his life he really has nothing much to say about. Nothing is ever Georges' fault, not even a near accident crossing the street. He blames a cyclist for his careless mistake, showing that he has learned nothing from his past but is still repeating it. As with the opening of Haneke's epic of non-communication, Code Unknown, he is oblivious to the wider implications of what is to him a trivial moment or of the possible consequences of his moment of self-righteous anger.
Just as he edits out anything 'too theoretical' in his TV show, he tries to re-edit his own past (just as the French government did last year when it passed a law that "the benefits of French colonisation in foreign countries should be recognised and integrated into school programs.") but can't do it quite so easily. Not that he doesn't try. Both of Georges' initial flashbacks are dishonest reinventions of memory: Georges turns his childish conspiracy against one character into his victim terrorising him, reinventing his memory and history to reflect his current interpretation of events and reality. It's this reinvention that allows him to honestly claim without any real evidence that he is being terrorised - "a campaign of terror" are his exact words - by the person he has wronged, actions currently being replayed in Iraq. To France, the atrocities inflicted on the Algerians don't matter - it's the threat to Georges that, in his childlike ignorance, is all that matters and must be dealt with radically.
Indeed, even though Majid and his son are French-born, both are regarded as foreigners, intruders. Yet neither conforms to the stereotyped 'Arab' image: polite, sad, very pointedly not aggressive, yet still regarded purely as a threat for being goaded into an action for which they were punished.
Binoche can be seen as the French people, kept in the dark, asked for their trust although trust is not extended to them in much the same way that Blair in the UK asked for people's trust over the intelligence that led to the UK's involvement in Iraq yet never revealed nor explained his reasons beyond his contention that he was convinced it was "the right thing to do, but it's time to move forward." But if Binoche is the French people, she is no more admirable herself. Both ignore the violence and torture that plays unwatched on a TV in the background in one scene and concentrate on their own immediate priorities.
I still haven't had time to fully digest all the implications of the ending - is he committing suicide himself? (Probably not since he feels no guilt.) Is the hidden shot of two children talking to each other in the final shot a sign of complicity or the way that each generation is doomed to suffer for the sins of the father? Is it the next tape to be sent? It's almost a Rorschach Test for the viewer: how you interpret it says more about you than the film.
Haneke makes no secret that he isn't interested in providing answers but rather is forcing questions on the viewer to make them more of a participant: "I'm not going to give anyone the answer. If you think it's Majid, Pierrot, Georges, the malevolent director, God himself, the human conscience - all these answers are correct. But if you come out wanting to know who sent the tapes, you didn't understand the film. To ask this question is to avoid asking the real question the film raises, which is more: how do we treat our conscience and our guilt and reconcile ourselves to living with our actions... I look at it as productive frustration. Films that are entertainments give simple answers but I think that's ultimately more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cache should not be kept hidden if you are a serious cinephile,
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This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)This intelligent drama is an excellent study on the post effects of childhood shelfishness. On the surface this superbly acted film appears to be a top notch suspense, but Haneke purposefully takes advantage of the viewer's preconception of how things should unfold in a most subtle way. This film also depicts the inner workings of a family unit with remarkable realism and verve. Haneke is the maestro and this understated classic is thought provoking in a most unique manner. Cache is an allegorical film that complels from it's prolonged opening frame to the very end.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hide It,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)I like films that keep me guessing. however in order to do so well they have to actually move. This one moved a bit too slowly for my taste. I also think that it required a bit of insight into France's history with Alergia. That info was subtly delivered in context, so subtly that it could be easily missed, thus the crux of the film would be, too. It's a beautiful film to watch, and compelling enough in its story...
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paris, 17 October 1961,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)Secrecy, amnesia, conscience? A thriller or an allegory? Or mainly an essay on film theory?
I was prepared not to like this film. I had hated director Haneke's previous Funny Games: not mindless violence, but intelligent, sadistic, senseless violence.
The reviews here on Hidden are mixed. Some of those who expected a thriller are disappointed or even bored.
The naked story (trying to make sense without spoiling it): a wealthy Paris family is being stalked. The stalker sends tapes, which at first show only that he has watched their house. Then he sends a tape of the husband's childhood place. Then a tape leading to a certain apartment in a recognizable street. The husband has a hunch from the start, but dissembles. His lies disturb the relation with his wife. The 12 y old son has his own puberty problems which add to the thriller layer of the story.
The husband visits the apartment and claims that nobody had been there. The next tape shows him in conversation inside the apartment.
The tape story drags on a bit. Our sympathies are entirely with the wife, who is almost unreasonably reasonable, under the circumstances.
Let me say, if this was a thriller and nothing else, it would come out here with about 3 ˝ stars from me: interesting enough, but not overwhelming.
But of course, say some, this is an allegory about France's guilt from the Algerian independence war.
There was a massacre in Paris on October 17 in 1961, when police killed somewhere between 200 and 300 Algerians; this happened, if I am not mistaken, after a demonstration. Sounds like Iran? Exactly!
The husband is digging into his memory and he finds ugly things. His parents had been about to adopt an Algerian boy when he himself was 6. The adoption was cancelled under ugly circumstances. The husband prefers to keep the lid down. The truth comes out in his nightmares. The final scene is possible only under sleeping medication.
The allegory interpretation says that the husband symbolizes France. He tries to forget his personal October 17.
The cinematography is based on the integration of the tapes into the story, to the extent of confusing us, certainly on purpose. We don't always know right away if we are here or there.
I am sure that generations of film students will find material for their thesis in this film.
In the end I am so fascinated that I can't avoid giving 5 stars, against my initial instinct. (And I had the added problem that my DVD was French without subtitles, so I lost some of the verbal communication, eg during the dinner party conversations, when no context helps in figuring out the conversation. It turns out that to some extent the language problem forced me to focus harder on the visual communication. Maybe one ought to watch more movies without tone, at least for the second time. If they are worth it. And one should watch only movies that are worth watching twice. Or have I said that before?)
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What really happened?,
This review is from: Cache (Hidden) (DVD)You will have to work to "get" this film. Attention to nuance, irony, scene composition and the ability to accept dreams as dreams, memory as faulty and people as liars, even to themselves: you need these to enjoy this great film. If you want a staightforward thriller with a neat resolution... watch something else!
This film is a brilliant character study with political overtones. The vision is cynical and bleak. I found it unsettling and mulled it over in my mind for some time. There are so many themes, but most are implicit: imperialism, racism, bourgeois complacency, betrayal, family, trust, paranoia --these are but a few of the grand themes tackled by Haneke in less than 2 hours.
If you like a film that makes you work a bit and don't mind being disturbed, even shocked, then see Caché. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but not "arty". The dialogue is crisp and intelligent; the acting, flawless. The camera is manipulated like a surgeon's scalpel (which is as it had to be, given the main plot points) and the vibe is tense and paranoid.
Not your everyday Hollywood piffle!
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Cache (Hidden) by Michael Haneke (DVD - 2006)