Now this, this is how you take on the bourgeois in contemporary cinema. Michael Haneke‘s "CachÃ©," coming off well-earned acclaim at its premiere at Cannes, is a shockingly good evisceration of middle-class urban life that pulls no punches. French cinematic icons Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche are Georges and Anne Laurent, a successful literary couple: Georges hosts a discussion show about books on TV, Anne works in publishing, and their son, Pierrot, is in a good school and is just hitting his teens. They live in a sleekly modern house on a quiet street in Paris; they entertain often. And one day they find a videotape sitting on their doorstep that contains footage of their house from across the street. There’s nothing remarkable about the footage, other than that neither Georges nor Anne saw anyone out there with a camera. Then they receive another tape. And another.
We never find out who’s been recording the Laurents â€” the act grows increasingly implausible and ephemeral as the film foes on. It’s more the self-examination that the tapes warrant that sends the family’s lives spiraling, exposing all manner of middle-class guilt and defensiveness, of paranoia and self-importance. Haneke is no novice, and this isn’t "Desperate Housewives" â€” Georges has a secret, and it’s something both small and terrible dating back to his childhood and the Algerian family that used to work for his parents. Racism and insulation haunt the film â€” Haneke rips into our concepts of home and comfort, exposing them as means of retreating from and refusing to engage in or acknowledge liability for the world’s problems, particularly in one scene, where Georges and Anne try to track down their son on the phone. They grow increasingly distressed that he hasn’t called, and we can almost see each imagined terrifying scenario running across their minds as it occurs to them, but our eyes are drawn to the news playing on the large-screen television in the background, which shows scene upon scene of unrest and violence. It’s not nearly as anvil-obvious as we’re making it sound, promise.
Auteuil and Binoche, growing gloriously older, give more than solid performances as Georges and Anne â€” Anne is consumed with the fact that her husband has hidden important details of his life from her (and from himself), but also concerned about preserving the family’s lifestyle and public image, while Georges is simply one of the most quietly ugly personalities to have ever graced the screen.
Haneke sharply draws a world in which people realize that they lead a privileged existence, and create a lifestyle in which they can avoid a sense of culpability for those who don’t by never seeing them. For him, the simple act of forcing his couple to look at themselves is enough to destroy that serenity â€” for a while.
"CachÃ©" opens in limited release December 23.