Michael Haneke Makes It Hurt So Good

Michael Haneke Makes It Hurt So Good (photo)

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I love black and white, and I use it every chance I can, but there were a number of technical difficulties. We had to start from scratch because no one has any experience working with it anymore. On top of that, we had to shoot using color film stock because black and white stock isn’t sensitive enough to film by candlelight and gaslight. We shot in color, and then transferred it to digital. There was an incredible amount of work involved, but I think the results made it worth it. In terms of visual models, we used as references the photographs of August Sander, who was the photographer in Germany during this period.

Were you pressured by investors or distributors to shoot in color?

Of course. [laughs] Our co-financiers in television demanded that we provide them with a color print. They didn’t want to show the film in black and white. It was only after we won the Palme d’Or that they finally reneged on their demand.

At the New York Film Festival press conference last fall, you said that the old cursive subtitle below the title translates to “A German children’s tale,” but you left it untranslated because it made the film too specific to German audiences.

We say that, in Germany, the audiences should see the film as about Germany. Whereas in America, people should see the film as about America, and in France, people should see it as about France. That’s why we didn’t translate that subtitle. It was meant as an ironic nudge at the German audience. Interestingly, even in Germany, over half the spectators won’t be able to understand it because it’s written in an old form of handwriting that my grandmother used, but even my parents can’t read.

What about the other part of the subtitle. Did you think the tongue-in-cheekiness of “a children’s tale” couldn’t be appreciated in other cultures?

The title is always the last thing you determine about a film. There were a number of titles that we were playing with through the years while I was working on this script. Until we made that decision, the film was called “A Children’s Tale.” It’s not so ironic. In both German and English, the title has an ambiguous meaning. It could mean both a tale about children, and a tale for children.


I like that the film is narrated after the fact by a minor character who only appears in the margins of the story.

For dramaturgical reasons, the teacher and the nanny Eva are the only people who come from outside. An external viewpoint allowed me an objectifying perspective.

Since he’s an unreliable narrator, you’re able to play with the ideas of memory and mythology, by depicting exchanges between characters that he’d never have been privy to.

That’s the narrative irony. It’s also present in the classic novels, where the novelist claims to describe things that there’s no way he or she could know. That’s why the narrator begins the tale as he does. He says, “I’m not sure if the tale I’m about to describe to you actually took place in this way. My memory is vague and a lot of things I’ve heard only from hearsay.” The beginning is meant to stress for the audience that the reality they’re seeing onscreen shouldn’t be taken as reality, but as memories and artifact. The black and white stresses this artificial aspect, too.

This is your first film shot in Germany in a decade. How different is it working in other countries, especially outside of your native language?

It’s easier in Germany because I understand everything. [laughs] It’s not a question of how to explain myself. Even when I explain in a very childish way, the actors are forced to listen to me, so it’s not so terrible. I’m a control freak. I have to know what’s going on. If it’s in another country — even in France, I speak not-too-bad French — I’m a little bit out of control because they’re talking and I don’t understand everything. There’s more stress.

There are wonderful actors all around the world. By shooting in different languages, you have the opportunity to work with them as well. What’s important is, when you’re listening to your actors, to be able to tell whether the emotions are true or not. When it’s not my mother tongue, I can see if a reading is correct or not. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Working in different languages has allowed me to be able to shoot continuously without long pauses in between because I’ve been in different territories.


There are a quite a few roles for children in all your films, and you always snag great performances out of them. Good child actors are hard to come by, as is. What’s your trick?

There’s no trick! You have to find the right casting, that’s all. If you have talented children, it’s better than an actor because they’re not playing. Actors are always playing another person. With a child, if it’s a lion, he is a lion.

Speaking of casting, I noticed “Everyone Else” co-star Birgit Minichmayr in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her cameo. That other film is a part of the “Berlin School” filmmaking scene, and I’m curious what you think of it.

I know and admire the Berlin School of filmmakers, but Birgit really doesn’t belong to them. She’s an Austrian who works in Vienna, but I know her personally. That was as a favor to me that this huge theater star accepted this small role.

Your films are always so depressing and intense. Have you ever thought about directing something lighter, warmer, maybe a comedy?

Even my aunt would chide me and ask, “You’re such a nice young man. Why don’t you ever make comedies?” My answer to her was that you can’t ask a cobbler to make a hat.

“The White Ribbon” is now open in New York and Los Angeles before expanding into limited release on January 15th.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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