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Amour Blu-ray ReviewBlu-ray Sony Pictures
Aug 21 2013 07:57 PM | Richard Gallagher in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
- Studio: Sony
- Distributed By: N/A
- Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Audio: Other
- Subtitles: English, English SDH
- Rating: PG-13
- Run Time: 2 Hr. 7 Min.
- Package Includes: Blu-ray
- Case Type:
- Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
- Region: A
- Release Date: 08/20/2013
- MSRP: $35.99
The Production Rating: 4/5A woman I know once told me that she has no interest in seeing movies which are about real life. "If I want to see real life," she explained, "I'll ride around town in a bus for two hours." The extent to which you agree or disagree with that sentiment may help you to gauge how you will react to seeing Amour, the winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (it also was nominated for Best Motion Picture). As directed by Michael Haneke, Amour is deliberately paced - so languid, in fact, that some viewers may lose patience with it. Those who stick with it will be rewarded by seeing two outstanding actors explore the tragic circumstances which all too many elderly people have to endure.
Amour begins with its conclusion. Emergency personnel force their way into a Paris apartment and find no one at home. While men work to open a locked bedroom door, others go into the dining room and living room to open windows. When the bedroom door is opened, the men discover the dead body of an old woman lying peacefully on her bed. She is wearing a fine dress, her hands lay over her stomach, and her pillow is covered with flowers.
The film then flashes back to a piano recital at a concert hall in Paris. The audience includes an elderly couple, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva ). At the conclusion of the performance they are greeted by the triumphant pianist. We come to learn that Georges and Anne are retired music teachers and the pianist, Alexandre (Alexandre Tharaud, a real concert pianist), was Anne's prize pupil. The happy and satisfied couple return to their large apartment, where Georges worries that someone has tried to break in during their absence. That turns out to be the least of their problems.
The next morning, at breakfast, it becomes apparent that Georges and Anne are cultured, intelligent people who enjoy bantering with each other. However, while George is talking to Anne she suddenly freezes up and becomes unresponsive. Georges tries to shake her and he applies a wet towel to her face and neck, but nothing brings her out of her trance. Then, while Georges is getting dressed to get some help, Anne suddenly snaps out of it, totally unaware of what has taken place. It turns out that she has suffered a stroke, and surgery designed to remove an obstruction of her carotid artery is unsuccessful. Anne returns home in a wheelchair, paralyzed on her right side. She makes just one request of her husband: "Please, never take me back to the hospital."
For a time Anne functions reasonably well. She is frustrated by her paralysis, but initially her mind is as sharp as ever. She and Georges have a daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who is not convinced that it is a good idea for her mother to live at home with only her aging husband to care for her. Nevertheless, Georges willingly takes on the role of caretaker. He loses his patience at times, but his amour for Anne is never in doubt. Sadly, her condition becomes progressively worse, and taking care of her becomes an ever greater chore.
Director Haneke filmed Amour with innumerable static shots where the camera never moves (the story takes place almost entirely within the apartment). There are extended moments when nothing seems to happen, apart from Georges puttering around the apartment or the housekeeper vacuuming. Some may complain that the film has too many lulls and in that respect is overly realistic. Nevertheless, the performances by the stellar members of the cast are nothing less than remarkable. Leading the way is 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva, who received an Academy Award nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. She did not win, but she made history by becoming the oldest actress ever to receive that nomination. Jean-Louis Trintignant is sympathetic but restrained as Georges, never allowing his character to come across as maudlin. The film does have its share of touching moments, as when the half-paralyzed Anne uses her good hand to leaf through a book of photographs taken of her when she was young. "It's beautiful," she remarks. "What?" ask Georges. Anne replies simply, "Life."
Anyone who has ever had to deal with the physical and mental deterioration of an elderly loved one will find much to identify with in Amour. The movie has been highly praised, receiving near-unanimous approval from the leading film critics. Whether this sort of film is your cup of tea is something only you can decide. I can assure you that if you watch it, you will not soon forget it.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The 1.85:1 1080p picture employs the AVC codec, and although far from spectacular it is fine in every respect. Amour was filmed with muted colors and in fact it could have been made in black & white without losing any impact. Nevertheless, the images and sharp and detailed throughout (after watching the film go back to the concert scene and see how easy it is pick out Georges and Anne in the audience). Black levels are good and shadow detail is excellent, which is important because the entire film takes place indoors.
Audio Rating: 3/5The French 5.0 DTS HD-MA is clear and free of distortion. The film's soundtrack was recorded in stereo and it gives a pleasing soundstage to the occasional performances of pieces by Schubert, Beethoven, and Bach (Schubert's Impromptu Opus 90 is featured prominently). The English subtitles are bright white and are very easy to read.
Special Features: 3/5The special features, all in high definition, include a "making of" featurette in which director Haneke explains that the apartment is an exact copy of his parents' apartment. The principal actors are given a chance to discuss their roles and their working relationship with the director. The featurette has a running time of approximately 25 minutes.
A Q&A session with film critic Elvis Mitchell questioning Michael Haneke was done at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Q&A runs for about 39 minutes, which gives Mitchell time to ask just about everything you might want to ask the director.
Sony also has included the original theatrical trailer for Amour, as well as previews of The Gatekeepers, Before Midnight, The Company You Keep, At Any Price, and Fill the Void.