Season Spotlight: “Amour”

"A masterpiece about life, death, and everything in between," writes The New York TimesManohla Dargis of Michael Haneke's Amour, which, after winning the Palme d'Or in Cannes nearly seven months ago, was finally released in select US cities today.

Such an extended wait has cinephiles anxiously awaiting their chance to see Haneke's latest masterwork—latest because, yes, there have been multiple from the Austrian auteur. If you were to analyze the post-millennial work from the greatest working filmmakers, you would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive selection of work than Haneke's. So far this century, Michael Haneke has made seven films, for which he's claimed two Palme d'Ors (Amour and The White Ribbon), one Best Director award at Cannes (2005's Cache), and a Grand Prix award for The Piano Teacher. So you can understand the anticipation and even impatience of film-lovers (this writer included) after hearing about how truly masterful this latest work is for the better part of a year now.

Yet, even before the film was unanimously selected as the best film at the yearly auteurist celebration in Cannes, great expectations had already mounted. A Haneke film about, as Dargis suggests, life and death, starring two of France's most celebrated actors, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, the latter of whom had to be coaxed out of retirement to appear in the film? It was a dream come true for cinephiles.

Michael Haneke discusses Amour at a press conference during the 50th New York Film Festival. Photo: Olga Bas

Given the fact that Haneke's previous film, The White Ribbon (NYFF '09), had won the top prize at Cannes just a few years ago, few suspected there would be a repeat. But the mastery of Amour proved undeniable. As The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw's wrote in May, the film is "everything that could have been expected from [Haneke] and more: a moving, terrifying and uncompromising drama of extraordinary intimacy and intelligence."

Five months later, the film made a stop here at the Film Society for the 50th New York Film Festival. The celebrated arrival of Haneke, his third appearance at the NYFF in the past decade, demonstrates the passionate global following Haneke has amassed after churning out one great film after another. Such universal acclaim has persisted into the awards season. Last month, Amour swept the European Film Awards, winning awards for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Actress. Its accolades aren't restricted by continental boundaries, either. With the Boston Society of Film Critics, the film not only took home the prize for Best Foreign Language Film, but also Best Actress. But in the end, any awards and nominations the film receives will only add to what many believe to be a lasting achievement. As The New York Times' A.O. Scott wrote, after declaring Amour his favorite film of the year, "months after its debut at Cannes, the film already feels permanent."

Accolades (So Far):
Winner: Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival
Winner: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, European Film Awards
Winner: Best Foreign Language Film, New York Film Critics Circle
Winner: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actress, Boston Society of Film Critics Awards
Nominated: Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globes
Pending: Best Foreign Language Film, Academy Awards (Austrian entry) Shortlist to be announced on Friday, December 21 . 

Watch David Poland's "Cannes Sneak" with Michael Haneke for the Film Society:

Watch the NYFF50 press conference for Amour with Michael Haneke: 

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