15 May 2006 | debblyst
When hiding can be revealing -- one of the top films of the 2000s
If you've just seen "Cachê" and are still (understandably) in shock, not knowing whether you really liked it or not, let me ask you a few questions. Now, when was the last time a film:
a) had you glued to your seat as in "Caché", your eyes and neurones required to work in full gear from beginning to end, making it impossible to erase it out of your mind (instead of the instantly forgettable films you see every week), and actually making a second viewing almost compulsory?
b) posed such complex, multi-layered questions -- socio-political ones (the shameful, violent legacy of past and present imperialist nations, the manipulation of "reality" by the State and the media), existential ones (the racial, class and social prejudices that we all carry and have to fight within ourselves), and more prosaic ones, like trying to solve a complicated thriller? When were they so masterly interwoven?
c) made you aware that your explanation for the movie's most immediate, "practical" question (who's sending the tapes to Georges) will be influenced by your own background and prejudices?
d) had such a controversial and rich ending? (I could think of at least five possible denouements, even considering that I DID see the two boys -- q.v. the multiple theories about the ending in "Caché"'s message boards here in IMDb).
"Caché" is one of the few real masterpieces of the 2000s. The mix of socio-political comment with the thriller genre is not new, of course (you can go back at least to great German silent films by Lang, Murnau, Dieterle, Pabst). In 2005 alone, Cronenberg made the half-successful "A History of Violence", Spielberg the underachieved "Munich", Stephen Gaghan the overwrought "Syriana", Paul Haggis the soap-operatic "Crash". But Haneke asks us and gives us much more: he demands our ability to fill in the many important historical and political gaps, messes with our prejudices but respects our intelligence, and knows that a good part of us viewers are bored to death of being spoon-fed with one-digit I.Q. plots in mechanical thrillers inhabited by tired, phony "archetypes" of good x evil characters.
"Caché" is a monumental proof of Haneke's COMPLETE command of his craft. Artistic achievements like this are now SO rare in films that "Caché" feels like a happening -- a work of art that is mind-boggling, hypnotic and physically unnerving, ethically and esthetically disturbing, combining the sense of revelation and discomfort you get with the best political films with the braincells workout you get with the best thrillers.
As I left the theater, three masterpieces immediately came to my mind: Clouzot's "Le Corbeau" (a political statement disguised as a thriller and a probable inspiration for "Caché"), Antonioni's "The Passenger" (ditto, and also for the long, breathtaking, "open-meaning" last shot) and Resnais' "Marienbad" (the seminal film of multi-layered possible interpretations of "reality"). "Caché" stands tall on its own, reaffirming Haneke as one the top-5 working directors of the 2000s. Can't wait for his next film -- but while I do, I'll watch "Caché" one more time, and understand that hiding (Georges hiding his past and his feelings, nations hiding shameful parts of their history, Haneke hiding evidence, explanations and conclusions) can be a form of powerful revelation...and self-revelation.