Sorry, Mr. Haneke, but my conscience is a hell of a lot better looking than you. Nice try, guy.
Michael Haneke’s 1997 Funny Games always seemed more like an instruction manual than a thriller, with the famously dyspeptic Austrian auteur hesitantly going through the genre motions only to teach us something he feels we really ought to learn. Now, as if to put all doubts of his intentional didacticism to rest, Haneke has returned to the scene of his crime (against art?) for his first English-language film, a stringent remake that, in theory at least, takes the guise of the sort of Hollywood product he always intended to deconstruct. The implication is that those who most needed this movie medicine (namely us mindless drones known as Americans) didn’t swallow the first time, so perhaps now, unencumbered by nattering subtitles and unfamiliar European faces, we will unwittingly flock to the multiplex for a punishing lesson in audience humility and media critique posing as a home-invasion suspenser.
The problem is that even if one fell for Haneke’s limp tsk-tsking the first time around, ten years later his nasty little games of viewer barbarism seem musty, even quaint. What’s worse, the entire project suffers from the gall Haneke shows in not only remaking his own film for the “edification” of a wider audience, but in trusting his own original vision so fundamentally and without question that he has chosen not to append or alter it in any significant way.
This speaks to an astonishing artistic hubris, but also of Haneke’s refusal to engage with his own work and legacy; one would hope at this point in his career, especially after the refinement of his craft in films such as Code Unknown and Caché, that Haneke would want to slash this old canvas with a razor. Instead, he offers it up again, like a paper written in freshman colloquium, without changing the text. Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky’s review of Funny Games, American-style.