Cache (Hidden), the latest film by director Michael Haneke (The Piano Teacher), could not have better timing for a limited American release: a French couple anxiously wonder why theyï¿½ï¿½ï¿½re receiving unmarked videotapes with surveillance of their house. The creepy premise canï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t help reminding the moviegoer about the recently revealed (and legally questionable) domestic spying program run for the last few years by the Bush administration.
We watch the videotapes at the same time as Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche), hearing them talk over it: ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½Itï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s stupid, but it scares me,ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ Anne says. Nothing really happens in the videos, itï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s just a shot from across the street, but we can feel the coupleï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s anxiety ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ is there something weï¿½ï¿½ï¿½re missing? What are we waiting for? Every car that passes, a bicyclist who speeds by, even Anne entering the apartment all build the tension just a little bit more. Itï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s oddly unnerving, the idea of not only being watched but actually viewing the surveillance.
So why would we be watched unless we have something to hide? It becomes clear through subsequent videotapes and postcards featuring childish drawings of violent images sent to everyone in the family that this all has something to do with Georgesï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s childhood, something he is determined to hide and someone is determined to reveal. Auteuil gives a powerhouse performance, desperately attempting to maintain his cool as his level of panic and paranoia grow. His relations with Anne become strained as he gets tangled in his lies to and his half-hearted justifications of his past actions. Auteuil shows us a man who can feel his foundations being uprooted.
Haneke avoids quick cuts in favor of long, drawn-out scenes that allow his top-notch actors space to breathe. The camera is so unobtrusive that the whole film feels like surveillance ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ characters are even framed in a mug-shot like fashion. The result is extraordinary natural performances and a jarring impersonal feeling that gives the film an edge you wonï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t see in an American thrill-ride.
Unfortunately Cache goes off on tangents that are relevant to the central theme but are ultimately hung out to dry. Is Anne having an affair? Is there something more to son Pierrotï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s sudden rebelliousness other than teen angst? The complete lack of resolution is immensely disappointing. The pacing is leisurely (to put it kindly), and a shocking scene (you may jump) feels contrived and doesnï¿½ï¿½ï¿½t sit well with rest of the film.
Cache is a slow but fascinating examination of what we hide and the lengths we will go to protect our secrets. The film begs the question is there such a thing as privacy? Itï¿½ï¿½ï¿½s a clever and thought-provoking take on the thriller genre.
STARRING: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice B?ï¿½nichou, Annie Girardot, Lester Makedonsky, Bernard Le Coq, Walid Afkir, and Daniel Duval
GENRE(S): Drama, Suspense/Thriller
WRITTEN BY: Michael Haneke
DIRECTED BY: Michael Haneke
RELEASE DATE: Theatrical: December 23, 2005
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes, Color
ORIGIN: France, Austria, Germany, Italy
LANGUAGE(S): French (with English subtitles)