Friday, January 26, 2018

Michael Haneke's HAPPY END is just what you expect -- and every bit as much dark fun, too

Dissecting (and eviscerating) Europe's haute bourgeoisie, as ever, German filmmaker Michael Haneke is at it once again. In HAPPY END he's working with those splendid actors he also used in his Oscar-winning (but not really very good) Amour --Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant -- and he's added a number of other, lesser-known (except for Mathieu Kassovitz) performers, each of whom does a terrific job. Especially fine is the young actress Fantine Harduin (shown two photos below and already seen in both the Spiral TV series and in Fanny's Journey), here playing the family's subversive and highly problematic grandchild. The spot-on scene between her and Trintignant toward the film's conclusion is a keeper that also deftly manages to bring all of the movie's concerns to the fore.

Herr Haneke, shown at left, is doing pretty much what he always does, and, as usual, he does it so well -- quietly, subtly, often indirectly -- that intelligent audience are likely to follow along, enrapt as ever.

The very upper-middle class family this time around owns what appears to be a construction firm that may be having some economic difficulties, soon to be made even more difficult by an event -- shown by Haneke ever so quietly, suddenly and at the perfect distance so that it becomes what TrustMovies would call one of the year's best "special effects" -- that helps set things on their ever-spiraling and downward course.

If that very pretty granddaughter, above, has her difficulties, so, too, does Trintignant's other grandchild, played by an actor new to me but very worth seeing, Franz Rogowski (below).

These two young people have problems that are quite obvious. Less so are those of the family matriarch, Trintignant's daughter (played by Huppert, below, commanding and cold, as she so often is) and her sleazy, superficial younger brother (played by Kassovitz, two photos down).

Britisher Toby Jones (shown second from right in the photo at bottom) joins the group as Huppert's fiance, a moneyed fellow who just might pull the ailing company out of its doldrums. The family is cared for and waited upon by a group of French-via-Algeria-looking servants, who are treated not quite badly (but not quite well, either).

All this comes to a delightfully dark head at the engagement party for Huppert and Jones. From the film's beginning right through to its finale, Haneke sees to it that our modern technology plays a major part. How he does this is both clever and unsettling -- which is, one way or another, ultimately the case with all of his films.

From Sony Pictures Classics, Happy End (ah, the irony!) has already played a number of cities throughout the country during its large though limited theatrical run. Click here to see all current and upcoming playdates, cities and theaters.

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