Michael Haneke’s quasi-metaphysical domestic thriller, in which a bobo French couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) become victims, shall we say, of history’s own surveillance. Caché is a masterpiece that grows in your head long after you see it—but pay attention.
“More cavalier!” someone says in this Oscar winner— it’s a reference to the British participation in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, but it sums up the movie, which follows two hard-nosed runners (Ben Cross’s angry Jew, Harold Abrahams; and Ian Charleson’s pious preacher, Eric Liddell) as they attempt to outrun everyone (except each other) as a matter of principle. A lovely ode, made hypnotic by Vangelis’s electronic score.
The setting is Paris, the archetypal hub of romance, and we rejoin Celine and Jesse nine years after they left each other at the train station, swearing to meet in Vienna six months later, in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. With that movie, we were clearly supposed to wonder if they’d actually meet up—and, just as clearly, we weren’t supposed to know for sure either way. But this sequel, coming a decade later, with a decade’s wear and tear having accumulated on the actors and the characters, gives us a Valentine’s Day–style answer we had no right to expect. Before Sunset is both intelligent and sexy, and whether you sigh dreamily over the notion of love at first sight or scorn it, the screenplay approaches the concept in such an original way that you won’t have the heart to scoff: Celine and Jesse share humorous, offbeat musings on life while they meander around Paris in the late-afternoon sun, just as they did when they wandered Vienna, but now they avoid—until they’re no longer able to avoid—the paths their lives have taken, because no, they never reunited as they’d promised. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy have invested so much in these characters that they share screenplay credit with director Richard Linklater.
L’amour between two precocious young teens—an American girl (a fresh-faced Diane Lane) and a French boy (one-shot-wonder Thelonious Bernard)—on the streets of Paris, and their flirtation takes us on quite the tour: Parisian markets, the Champs Elysées, the Tuilleries, and more. In an effort to pledge their eternal love, they run away to Venice to kiss under the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola at sunset, and they treat us to Italy in the bargain. Laurence Olivier accompanies them, trotting out a French accent that sounds as unassailable as his German accent in Marathon Man.
René Clair was one the filmmakers for whom the technological burdens of early sound were not a crippling impediment but an inspiration. This love triangle confection is a fascinating litany of ingenious narrative gimmicks and formal flourishes, as well as a swoony, romantic evocation of the city in the period between the world wars.