AMOUR (director/writer: Michael Haneke; cinematographer: Darius Khondji; editors: Monika Willi/Nadine Muse; music: Schubert, Beethoven, Bach played by Alexandre Tharaud; cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant (Georges), Emmanuelle Riva (Anne), Isabelle Huppert (Eva), Alexandre Tharaud (Alexandre, classical pianist), William Shimell (Geoff, son-in-law), Ramón Agirre (Concierge’s Husband), Rita Blanco (Concierge); Runtime: 127; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Margaret Menegoz/Stefan Arndt/Veit Heiduschka/Michael Katz; Sony Pictures Classics; 2012-France/Germany-in French with English subtitles)

"Trintignant and Riva are unforgettably brilliant as the aging couple we can all identify with."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Austrian born writer-director Michael Haneke ("Caché"/"The White Ribbon"/"Funny Games") helms an uncomfortable but intimate tightly-wound controlling director's film about a cultured aging couple and how they must deal with a crippling sickness, where there's no chance of recovery.

Georges and Anne Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant & Emmanuelle Riva), in their eighties, are retired music teachers with a partiality to Schubert who are living a quiet intellectual urbane life and have a spacious cozy apartment in Paris. Their self-centered married with a family musician daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert) lives abroad, but visits often when she learns of her mother's first heart attack and frets over her second attack that leaves her partially paralyzed and only able to get around in a motorized wheelchair. Rather than going to a hospice to live out her life, Georges after trying to cope alone hires a part-time nurse to care for her and devotes all his energy into trying to make his beloved wife comfortable and wants desperately to carry out her wishes of no more hospitals. The love between the couple is unquestioned, but the reality is that there's no hope for a recovery and there's a strain in living in such dire circumstances where there's not much chance that anything can be done to alleviate the pain while she slowly dies.

How hubby and wife each cope with such a fluidly bad situation as Anne loses her memory at times and keeps getting incrementally worse, becomes the gist of this heart-warming love story film. Relentless in showing in detail the pain and agony and sense of isolation both must endure, the drama makes for a riveting but unpleasant watch. Though it's intelligent, sobering and unsentimental, it's not an easy film to keep your hankie in your pocket. Its title tells us it wants to be a love story, as the storyline depicts a love bond that's put through the fire to be tested. It's a pic every viewer can relate to. Its gloomy depiction of a life coming apart through physical deterioration can only remind those in similar tight spots, who live in places without an assisted suicide law, that to live out the golden years with such suffering is not very human.

The film works so well because the two legends of French cinema, Trintignant and Riva are unforgettably brilliant as the aging couple we can all identify with.

It was the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

REVIEWED ON 2/15/2013       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"