Wednesday, October 10, 2007

 

Not ha-ha funny

By Edward Copeland
You would have thought that white gloves would have been a giveaway that the chubby-faced, seemingly harmless young man seeking eggs for a neighbor had other plans in mind. Then again, if she'd caught on quicker, perhaps the madness that happens in Michael Haneke's 1997 film Funny Games could have been prevented.


Having liked the admittedly acquired taste of Haneke's films such as Cache: Hidden and The Piano Teacher, I felt I had to catch up with Funny Games once I learned he was doing an American remake of it and that the original starred Ulrich Muhe, the late actor whose great performance in The Lives of Others gave that film much of its resonance.

Funny Games proves to be tense and compelling though I'm not certain that Haneke's admitted thesis of showing that fake violence can be as devastating to a viewer as real violence comes off, though he definitely is trying to make some points about the audience's voyeurism. More than once, one of two villains of the piece (Arno Frisch) looks directly into the camera as if to acknowledge he knows the viewer is there.

The dastardly duo, supposedly named Peter and Paul, also refer to themselves on occasion as Tom and Jerry and Beavis and Butt-head. Late in the film, when something happens that any reasonable member of the audience would hope would happen, he breaks the rules again by undoing it. Fortunately, this doesn't come off as pretentiously as it sounds.

Instead, what you get is a well-acted, taut and suspenseful variation on films such as The Desperate Hours. Muhe is fine, but the real standout is Susanne Lothar as Anna, the mother of the family, who tries her best to cope with a most untenable situation.

Regardless of Haneke's intent though, Funny Games still proves to be a worthwhile viewing experience and may well be my favorite film of Haneke's that I've seen.


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Comments:
I hated this film. Not because it was bad, but because it was simply too horrifying. The stark, banal reality of the violence was simply too harsh for a boy raised on Hollywood happy endings. I had bad dreams about it for days.

Granted, I seem to specialize in bad dreams.
 
This is one Michael Haneke that just doesn't do it for me. In fact, I have suspected that he is remaking it because he felt he failed the first time around.

The scene you refer to that is undone made me groan and I am curious if it will be in the remake. I didn't really see any point to this movie in the end, or should I say, when a director has a "point" to make, as Haneke did here, I feel cheated in every other area. There was no one in the movie of any interest, no one fully developed, shaky plot lines. I mean, seriously, I hope to hell that in the remake they take over the family SPOILER a little more realistically than hitting the father in the shin with a golf club. I'm not trying to sound like a loose cannon here by revealing this about myself but I can tell you from past experiences of intervening in violent acts and (only occassional) streetfights that if some son of a bitch hit me with a club with the intent of brutalizing my family that MotherF***er would be dead inside a minute. Especially if he was of the puny bony variety on display here. To succeed they would have to shoot me - in the head END SPOILER. So I'm hoping he comes up with something a little harmful to dad, shall we say, to get things rolling. Anyway, all that aside, I would have to say that in the end the movie suffered from an intense case of "cleverness" that I don't feel it ever fully recovered from. I'm hoping the remake will do a much better job with the characters themselves now that Haneke probably has more confidence in his abilities as a storyteller.
 
I felt insulted by this movie. I know I am a voyeur when I watch a movie, any movie. I don't need a director telling me so in a pseudo-intellectual way. If Haneke desperately wants to make a point about our role when watching on-screen violence, he better aims at 'Bad Boys'-lovers instead of his own audience. Without the scene that I will not name I would have probably liked the movie, while still getting its message. The bad thing about this movie is that it made me reconsider my opinions about other Haneke movies, for I now question his intentions as a filmmaker. Haneke is not an artist, but merely a arrogant pretentieus braggar.
 
As I recall, the dark-haired actor in "Funny Games" also played Benny in Haneke's "Benny's Video" a few years earlier. He's supposed to be that kid, grown older.

Benny gets away with a murder in the previous film (and has his parents imprisoned for the crime) in "Benny's Video." In "Funny Games" we rejoin him casually pursuing his chosen field: Serial killing.

In "Funny Games" the family is a typical upper middle-class one, with a home in the city and one in country, boat, golf, and dinner with the equally well-off neighbors and so on.

These are people used to living in comfort and safety. Oh! so careful to be politically correct, they are always polite and patient with "our-own-kind" type of strangers on their doorstep. In sum, they are devoid of feral instincts.

Enter a couple of predators...

I found the idea of the white-gloved killers fascinating. Only one person, the woman in the sailboat notices and inquires about them. She naively accepts the lame excuse given for why both men are wearing gloves and later she and her family become the next victims.

From conversations I've had about this film, women detest both the film and Haneke for making it, whilst men respond in "Fight Club mode." (As did the gent up above.)

Haneke's remake for a "murikan" audience was a good and necessary idea wasted.

In sum, I don't think Haneke's point was to tell us merely that "we are all voyeurs at the movies."

Thanks so much,
babette
 
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