Michael H – Profession: Director
Film Title: Michael H - Profession: Director
Director: Yves Montmayeur
Starring: Michael Haneke Emmanuelle Riva Juliette Binoche Isabelle Huppert
Running Time: 90 min
If you know anything about Michael Haneke, you will approach this documentary with guarded expectations. Famously evasive about the meaning of his films, the Austrian director is most unlikely to suddenly reveal who was sending the tapes in Hidden or what the disturbed children were really up to in The White Ribbon.
Sure enough, throughout a lengthy series of interviews and intriguing on-set interactions – stretching back over a decade –, the bearded guru deals in obfuscations and stonewalling. Infuriatingly, the only film whose philosophy he is prepared to unpick is the one with the most uncharacteristically naive message. After 15 years – and an English-language remake – Funny Games ’ moralising about the audience’s complicity in on-screen violence still seems absurdly trite.
Elsewhere, clad in black, he discusses his desire to show the truth, his abhorrence of clichéd storytelling and his determination to avoid easy answers. No news there.
For all that, this remains an essential document for all the film- maker’s admirers. Beginning with fascinating clips from the set of Amour, the picture works steadily backwards through Haneke’s oeuvre before returning to that searing Palme d’Or winner. The interviews may unveil little fresh information, but the shots of Haneke in action offer up minor revelations.
Watching these sombre, intellectually knotty films, one imagines the director scowling angrily from shadowy corners. Far from it. Haneke bounces about the set, acting out the roles for his slightly fearful actors. He chortles. On the shoot for Code Unknown he can even be seen applauding. Lest we get the wrong impression, however, Jean-Louis Trintignant, star of Amour, drily explains that Haneke is usually the only person laughing. (To be fair, Trintignant also describes the director as a genius.)
Only one person seems to fill Haneke with anything like terror. Seen behaving badly during promotional duties for Time of the Wolf, Béatrice Dalle manages to make even an adjacent Isabelle Huppert look cowed. Ms Dalle and Mr Haneke have not worked together since.