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Susan Granger's review of 'Amour'

Published 3:06 pm, Friday, February 1, 2013
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Demanding, deliberate and depressing, Michael Haneke's "Amour" compassionately examines love and marriage, while confronting illness, aging and dying.

As the story begins, the French police and fire departments force their way into the spacious Parisian apartment of retired music teachers and discover the emaciated body of an elderly woman, surrounded by white flowers. Then there's the title card, translated as "Love." A flashback reveals that over the past few years, genteel Anne Laurent (Emmanuelle Riva) has suffered a series of debilitating strokes. Her devoted husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) tenderly cares for her, even when she's confined to a wheelchair and eventually lying immobile in bed. Early in the onset of her fatal illness, Anne asks Georges to promise not to send her back to the hospital and to allow her to die with self-respect and dignity. He agrees and his commitment is steadfast, even when she becomes totally dependent on him.

Isolated from the outside world, they have only few visitors with the exception of a kindly neighbor. When a former pupil (pianist Alexandre Tharaud) of Anne's arrives to pay tribute to her tutelage, he only serves as a grim reminder of her inability to ever again play the music she loves. When their daughter Eva (Isabelle Huppert), who lives with her husband in London, tries to reason with her father about how to deal with her mother's suffering and obvious decline, conflict about her terminal care arises.

Austrian writer/director Michael Haneke ("The White Ribbon," "Cache"), who turned 70 in 2012, faultlessly deals with thorny issues like institutionalization and euthanasia while examining the physical, mental and emotional intricacy of marital responsibilities. Both Emmanuelle Riva ("Hiroshima, Mon Amour") and Jean-Louis Trintignant ("A Man and A Woman") deliver subtly poignant, expressively wrenching performances - as it becomes apparent why "Amour" won

the coveted Palme d'Or in Cannes.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Amour," in French with English subtitles, is an intimate, admirable, elegant 8. Geared to mature audiences, it's about facing our own mortality.