Palme d’Or for ‘Amour’?

There’s big buzz coming out of Cannes for Michael Haneke’s latest film, “Amour”, an ode to enduring love.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the Lumiere for Michael Haneke’s absolutely brilliant ‘Amour’,” The’s Sasha Stone reported. “No coughing, no walkouts”—something unheard of at the most artistically rich and critically loose film festival in the world.

But Stone had barely any critique of the 70-year-old Austrian filmmaker’s latest, writing:

When you really love someone for a lifetime, it transcends every other kind of love.  Romantic love comes nowhere near it. It is a bond so strong, in fact, that nothing can deter you from doing whatever needs to be done for the one you love. You will endure any test put in front of you, gladly, for a few minutes with your beloved.

Sentimentality is a surprising angle for a Haneke film, an artist best known for bleaker fare like “The Piano Teacher”, about an affair between a teacher and her much younger pupil, and “The White Ribbon,” a strange, disjointed and hauntingly beautiful film about life in a small, puritanical German village prior to World War I.  Of “Ribbon”, which won the Palme d’Or in 2009, Haneke said, “My main aim was to look at a group of children who are inculcated with values transformed into an absolute and how they internalize them. If we raise a principle or ideal, be it political or religious, to the status of an absolute, it becomes inhuman and leads to terrorism.”

“Amour” represents a switch for the politically minded Haneke, though praise for his love story has thus far been comprehensively effusive. The Wall Street Journal called it “the most serious contender” for Cannes’ top award. The festival ends May 27.

The story is about a happily married elderly couple, both retired piano teachers whose relationship undergoes the transformations that come with age and dying. Anne (played by Emmanelle Riva, 85, star of one of my all time favorite films 1959’s “Hiroshima mon Amour”) and Georges (actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, who apparently has not acted onscreen in years) are tested in ways they had not yet experienced when Anne suffers a series of strokes and Georges is forced from partner to caretaker.

Writing on WSJ’s Speakeasy blog, Lanie Goodman observed: “[W]hen their dialogue is no longer possible, the murmurs, cries, and wordless gazes unlock a deeper understanding about the devastating choices we make out of love.”