A baffling choice as closing night of the New York Film Festival — but only because it’s so damn good. One can only predict the quizzical snickers that will echo throughout the oversized Avery Fisher Hall on October 9 when the credits begin to silently roll. Even the most studious, intrigued viewer will initally wonder where the rest of the movie went….then it will slowly dawn on them not five minutes after shuffling out of the theater: It couldn’t end any other way.
Not that I’ll reveal. All I’ll say is that Michael Haneke’s new film, Caché (or Hidden) hits like a lightning bolt, just never in ways one would expect. If he is a provocateur, as he’s often called, he certainly manages to stir up and shock people in underhanded ways that may not immediately make themselves apparent. This new film is more insinuating than sideswiping: an upper middle class couple (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) find themselves under surveillance, yet they do not know the source–they keep discovering videotaped footage of their house’s facade, sometimes recording their comings and goings, left at their doorstep. The attempt to discover the culprit would seem to establish a conventional “investigation” narrative, yet the search leads back to dark recesses of a guilt so intangible and tied up in political and social traumas that narrative resolution is all but hopeless. Not that Haneke doesn’t find snakey ways of sending his narrative out in all directions.
Bookended by long static takes of momentous indeterminacy, Caché left me slightly agog. The final two single take, immobile compositions in the film might be studied and puzzled over for many years to come. Of course, it demands further viewings, but this might be Haneke’s best film.