Brothers Abroad brand

Thursday, August 03, 2006

“Hidden” (“Cache”), The Movie

With the “Da Vinci Code” bandwagon going like a runaway train, despite its most uncatholic reviews, one could be forgiven for not remembering the successes of last year’s annual film jamboree in Cannes. The winner of the Palme D’Or 2005 is still playing in one or two ‘very select’ cinemas in London, after a spectacular run on the big screen – for a film which many might argue is better suited to DVD* and the smaller screen…

Le Renoir is in some ways the perfect place to see a subtitled, noir thriller. Well, the name branding is solid for arty, foreign pictures, but the location is only solid in terms of the 1960s concrete monstrosity that is the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury. This development houses a grown-up cinema in what can only have been built in all seriousness as a bunker during the Cold War days and which is now enjoying a gentrified renaissance in the real-life game of Monopoly that is London’s property market.
 
The reviews of “Hidden” had been superlative, most notably, Time Out’s six-out-of-six stars assessment, which I figured must have been worth a minimum of four stars, if tempered by a reality-check discount. The Observer’s rave was directed squarely at its core readership of arty intelligentsia, referring to the film as “scampering after Pinter’s weasel under the cocktail cabinet in Michael Haneke’s thriller… ”**. And before you start thinking that it’s just another tediously subtitled, French movie with lots of silences and meaningful - if incomprehensible - glances between couples (“nothin’ ****in’ happens!” as an American film buff friend succinctly put it)…well, that is true to some extent, in a traditional, Hollywood narrative sense. What is remarkable about “Hidden” is that it has been an unlikely, foreign-language, top-three grosser in London during the BAFTA and pre-Oscar season, without even the promise of any Gauloise-packaged, semi-erotic pay-back. It’s a French “Memories, Lies and Videotape”, with no sex, a more sinister undertone and aspirations to a broader social commentary than its ‘90s Steven Soderbergh predecessor.
And so it was that we ended up at Le Renoir, for even the familiar comfort of the Curzon Soho was not sufficient compensation for the seething mass of humanity that is the London’s West End on a Saturday night…

The reviews of “” had been superlative, most notably, assessment, which I figured must have been worth a minimum of , if tempered by a reality-check discount. The Observer’s rave was directed squarely at its core readership of arty intelligentsia, referring to the film as “”**. And before you start thinking that it’s just another tediously subtitled, French movie with lots of silences and meaningful - if incomprehensible - glances between couples (“nothin’ ****in’ happens!” as an American film buff friend succinctly put it)…well, that is true to some extent, in a traditional, Hollywood narrative sense. What is remarkable about “” is that it has been an unlikely, foreign-language, top-three grosser in London during the BAFTA and pre-Oscar season, without even the promise of any Gauloise-packaged, semi-erotic pay-back. It’s a French “”, with no sex, a more sinister undertone and aspirations to a broader social commentary than its ‘90s Steven Soderbergh predecessor.And so it was that we ended up at , for even the familiar comfort of the was not sufficient compensation for the seething mass of humanity that is the London’s West End on a Saturday night…


This gem of a movie – well, perhaps I should more properly refer to it as “a picture”, without any pretensions to being a Hollywood studio type – stars Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteil, who play a successful, middle-aged, media couple (book publisher and high-brow chat show host respectively), who have the delicate balance*** of their lives upset by the receipt of a mysterious series of videotapes from an anonymous source. Parenthetically, I should note that although I am sure I would still be as enthralled by some petit dejeuner chez “La Brioche”, as I might have been a couple of decades back, Ms. Binoche does not now shy away from playing what I believe is referred to as une femme d’une certaine age. Auteil himself has matured into what might arguably be billed as a subtler, Parisian-Pacino. Not surprisingly for a picture with a title like “Hidden (Cache)”, things are not always – or maybe are never - as they seem. For starters and possibly by way of preparation, the director has some fun with his audience in the opening scenes, by making it difficult to determine what is recorded video footage and what is actually “live” action. This requires some conscious adjustment of one’s visual-tuning controls from the outset.


Hidden” is also a contemporary study of the media – and to a lesser extent, celebrity in France (where privacy laws are much more stringent than in the U.K.). One can hardly imagine this subject-matter being given such intimate and sparse, cinematic treatment on this side of the Channel. The lead-couple represents the liberal, intellectual elite, which means that we are struck by their discomfort when reality bites in the context of unwelcome frottage with France’s disaffected, ethnic minorities. Ambivalence is a key theme, with the audience never quite clear as to the precise motivation behind acts or statements.


The picture is described as a “thriller”, which, where French movies are concerned, usually denotes stylised gun-crime, such as Bessonified by Nikita. But here, it’s more a case of understated menace, accompanied by the crescendo of increasingly disturbing, child-like drawings which arrive with the videocassettes sent to the husband…Don’t expect  a Poirot-esque denouement where all becomes clear - for in our age, perception and projection are everything. Perhaps it was ever thus. Try not to be left feeling frustrated by the apparently loose ends, but if, on the other hand, you are one who feels “it’s a wrap!” and all has become clear as the credits roll in front of other more bewildered eyes, then felicitations to you! And for all you film-fashion victims, who like to be au courant with movies within the first few weeks of release – and therefore wouldn’t be seen dead in a cinema still showing such a film – this is definitely one for the DVD list. The DVD is arguably just as much for those who have already been drawn in by “Hidden (Cache)” on the bigger screen and are looking for even more intimate and ultimately more meaningful experience.

Footnotes:

*Now available on DVD.

** despite having seen a number of ‘Pinters’ in my time, I have only recently learned that this was a reference to an enigmatic response by the playwright himself, when asked to explain one of his works, back in the early days: “Find the weasel under the cocktail cabinet!quoth the great man.

*** With the acclaimed Broadway production of “…Virginia Wolf” now playing in the West End to more, rave reviews, I am reminded of Edward Albee’s much less celebrated play and in my humble view, altogether more subtle work, which beautifully illustrates the consequences of upsetting the equilibrium of a relationship and domestic set-up.

 


© Ayodeji C.R. Mahoney MMVI

Posted by Dej on 03 Aug around 10am

Filed Under Art & Culture

Please Login to leave a comment

Registration for public comment may be enabled eventually

Next entry: A Life in the Day of Tae Kwon Do Red Belt

Previous entry: Vox quinquagenaria

Powered by ExpressionEngine - Being built by PageToScreen