Length: 107 minutes
Director: Michael Haneke (Cache; The Piano Teacher)
Writer: Michael Haneke (Cache; The Piano Teacher)
Starring: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Siobhan Fallon, Robert LuPone, Devon Gearhart
You will either love this movie or you will despise it. “Funny Games” is a mind fuck of a thriller that toys with it’s audience the same way it’s antagonists toy with their victims. It seems like there’s been a slew of awful, superficial thrillers with low IQs lately (this gives me another chance to mention “I Know Who Killed Me”). “Funny Games” makes up for all of them. It’s the best of it’s kind since “American Psycho”. It is, so I’ve read, a shot by shot remake of director Michael Haneke’s 1997 Austrian picture of the same name. There’s some Lars von Trier in Haneke’s art and it makes sense that he’d want to translate his work for an American audience. Though given the reaction of the crowd that we saw it with Saturday evening- it will go over most people’s heads (not to sound snobby, but it was a bad crowd- particularly a group of clearly underage “Hot Topic” dorks who giggled during the whole movie). There is no satisfaction. There is no release. Certainly this is not the first horror film without a happy ending, but it’s one of the only ones I’ve seen that literally gives you one and then takes it right back (you’ll see what I mean if you see it). A middle class ordinary family heads to their vacation lake house. Father and husband George (Tim Roth), his wife Anne (Naomi Watts), their son Georgie (Devon Gearhart), and the family dog. They pass by their neighbors and notice a couple of preppy young men hanging around. Before too long the young men stop by to borrow some eggs. The eggs break and things go from bad to worse. Paul (Michael Pitt) and Peter (Brady Corbet), the two maniacs, never have their motives clearly defined. They are there solely to torture their victims mentally until, well, maybe they will kill them. They make a bet with the family on whether or not they will still be alive by 9am the following morning. The title comes into play as they use psychological torture for their own humor. Here is where you can decide on what Haneke is trying to say. Is he pulling a von Trier and criticizing America’s infatuation with violence? Paul turns Ferris Bueller during a few scenes and directly acts us what we the audience want. Do we want to see the family live? Do we want to see him and Peter punished? Is violence acceptable as long as it reciprocated? Alfred Hitchcock once famously said he likes to play his audience “like a piano”. I believe Haneke feels that other lesser filmmakers feel they have the same power- when in fact they play their audiences like a middle school kid trying to learn how to play guitar. Haneke, on the other hand, is Jerry Lee Lewis. He plays you like a piano and then lights it on fire.
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