It’s five days into the Cannes Film Festival, but today feels like the day when things finally hit their stride. There’s been a handful of very strong films (Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love, Raoul Ruiz’s La noche de enfrente) in the various line-ups, but until today, nothing that felt like a capital-E event, works to inspire intense dedication, fierce argument, and private contemplation in equal measure. Two of the three premieres I caught on Sunday, however, firmly stand in that elite category—and the other marks yet another strong addition to a subtly complex filmography.
Sight unseen, I’d imagine the two Competition titles most given to charges of probable irony were Paradise: Love and Michael Haneke’s Amour. The former, while certainly not a skip through the proverbial cinematic fields, was still uncommonly sympathetic, while the latter, one of the fest’s most cautiously anticipated titles, proved to be a near-total encapsulation of it’s title’s various implications. The follow-up to his masterful 2009 Palm d’or winner, The White Ribbon, Amour stands easily as the German pessimist’s most humane, heartbreaking work. Lest we think Haneke has softened—or, less likely, let the audience off the hook—the opening sequence presents a stark juxtaposition, cutting bluntly from a perfectly dressed dead body lying prone on a bed to the title card, slyly poking at expectations with a macabre, contradictory wink.