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“How Am I Supposed to Like It When Even Critics Don’t Understand It!?!”

"How Am I Supposed to Like It When Even Critics Don't Understand It!?!"

A choice nugget overheard upon exiting a Sunday matinee of Haneke’s splendid, precise Cache. It’s a reasonable question to ask given the ending’s gaping ambiguity (personally, I think those who believe the final shot provides some sort of easy answer may be missing the point), but it’s one that relies on three faulty assumptions:

1. People Who Write about Movies Know More than People Who Just Watch Them
2. A Movie Needs to Have an Answer
3. It’s Necessary to Fully Understand a Movie to Like It.

As easy as it is to play “blame the audience” when tough little movies get reactions like this, it’s those of us who write about movies that are the guiltier ones.

We’ll never quite be able to overcome problem #1, but blogs like this, and online movie sites in general, are offering the “average viewer” opportunities to engage in dialogue with critics on a much higher level than an old-fashioned letter-to-the-editor mailed into the void of a newspaper mailroom. This ability for dialogue (on any level) is good for all movies.

However, I think there’s plenty that people who write about movies regularly can do to fight assumptions #2 and #3. To be fair, the critic cited by our baffled audience member almost avoids collapsing Cache into something easily digestible, but even though the tenor of his review is positive, he might have done more to fully flesh out the link between ambiguity and pleasure that’s crucial to fully appreciating many great films.

So yeah, I didn’t “figure out” Cache, nor do I want to, nor do I think having me “get something” is Haneke’s point. If there was an answer (or if the film was even really a riddle), I think I’d care for it a lot less. I could say the same for the wonderfully rich final shot of Munich, or the entirety of the year’s best film, The New World. While Malick’s work is easily available for comprehension via its central relationships, labeling it a solely a “love story” would be just stupidly reductive. Is Cache a thriller? If calling it that helps get folks into theatres, then I guess the label is a necessary evil. But hopefully that genre tag won’t get overused to the point that it precludes appreciation of a film that seems concerned most of all with the inability to articulate the answers to the most burning questions.

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