Sep

23

What To Rent: The Piano Teacher

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In which film savant Iggy Cortez recommends we find our inner music-lover.

Micheal Haneke’s Caché was probably last year’s best film, an engaging anti-thriller about repressed personal and national guilt. However, it was not the first time Haneke had confronted his audience with universal ethical dilemmas. In movies such as Funny Games and Code Inconnu, Haneke had been experimenting with violence against the spectator, criticizing our tendencies to be complicit with the director’s manipulations and our passive absorption in narrative. But it is with his excellent 2000 film, The Piano Teacher, that these interrogations began to develop more maturely. Starring the exceptional actress, Isabelle Huppert, in a performance that makes any acting before it seem like amateur mimicry (I exaggerate, naturally) and based on the novel of Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher was a gripping and sadistic exploration of perversity, the idealist’s latent capacity for violence and the refusal of seduction.

 

Erica Kohut (Huppert) is a bitter, frigid piano teacher at a conservatory in Vienna, who still lives with her infantilizing tyrant mother (Annie Girardot). In her spare time, she attempts to escape the sterility of her life through sexual masochism – there is a particularly painful scene involving a razor – and an addiction to degrading pornography. Her life is suddenly destabilized by a peppy, talented student (Benoit Magimel) who, unaware of the extent of her perversity, falls in love with Kohut’s high-minded approach to music. However, Erica refuses to be seduced, and rather than yield to a romanticism she obviously craves, she self-destructively tests the limits of her love interest’s decency, painfully bringing out the brutal, disgusting barbarism behind his heroic persona. 

The film is an interesting choice to rent among friends. I have see it several times in theaters and on DVD, and reactions have ranged from vomiting to laughter (which, arguably, can both be reduced to attempts at distancing oneself from the film’s content) to enthusiasm and anger, but few disagree that Huppert’s performance will actively change your life.

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20 Comments

  1. Oh, yeah.  

    That felt good.

  2. Nice work Iggy  

    you make me want to put down my endless treatises and novels.

  3. please bwog  

    Stop letting him write this crap.

  4. nostalgia:  

    i rented this when it first came out on video and watched it alone, having no idea what i was in for...

    i experienced trauma and enlightenment.
    i was but a child.

  5. Anonymous

    good film, if not a little disgusting.

  6. alternatively  

    This was the worst movie I've ever seen. It's absolutely unwatchable at best; downright harmful at worst. I don't care how easily it's described in terms of enlightened film criticism, it's simply an unpleasant viewing experience. Why torture yourself?

  7. a proposition  

    Iggy Cortez is the new Fern Diaz.

  8. another proposition  

    Iggy Cortez is the new Jesus Christ.

  9. acolyte  

    go iggy!

    continue pissing off the plebs.

  10. mat  

    It's a romantic comedy!

    But seriously, I was never fully persuaded by Iggy's advocacy for this film--I suspect that where Iggy refers to the reaction of "laughter," he's thinking of me watching the scene at the drive-thru--until he wrote it down here. I may have to rewatch it. And try not to laugh.

  11. speclovesiggy  

    wage the war against the philistines iggy

  12. if  

    the Spec loves Iggy, that is the strongest indictment of him yet. Just check out this sentence:

    Starring the exceptional actress, Isabelle Huppert, in a performance that makes any acting before it seem like amateur mimicry (I exaggerate, naturally) and based on the novel of Nobel Laureate Elfriede Jelinek, The Piano Teacher was a gripping and sadistic exploration of perversity, the idealist's latent capacity for violence and the refusal of seduction.

    The most unintentionally hilarious thing I've seen on Bwog. I've seen worse in the Spec, which Bwog is becoming.

  13. Robert

    I thought Caché was a brilliant film. Both it and Le Pianiste strayed beyond the boundaries that film has traditionally explored. Definately worth the $2 that Kim's charges to rent the DVD.

  14. Kristin

    Fine review. I dare say that the author of Post #3 must be a fan of American Beauty.

  15. its true...  

    us simple plebs can't help but be overwhelmed with the change from the usual, which is having our thumbs up our ass and milwaukee's best on tap while watching those silly college football games

    and while that silly 'calling attention to movies that don't have a wide target audience' contention may sound good in between your sips of chardonnay and disgust of how the rest of the rabble of your peers behaves on campus, you have to admit, reviewing movies which are specifically intended for critics at a festival which is dominated by concrete notions of what good film, acting and well living is is pretty darn shallow

    maybe we can let this fellow do his reviews and also have some pleb do pleb movie reviews

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