A brilliant an original film. It unites current fads in art cinema, the frequent long take and multiple, interlocking storylines, both of which are in danger of becoming cliché. The way that these interlocking stories begin and end is very interesting. It gives us so little, and leaves us to figure out so much for ourselves. It's like a cinematic test of the psychological principle of closure. We ourselves have to connect the scenes and build the stories. In a way, it's kind of a game, and a fun one, at that. But it does cover some serious and important topics, namely the interaction of the various, and constantly increasing variety, of peoples in Europe. Most of the action takes place in France, although it does journey to Eastern Europe often and even Africa at one point. And, thankfully, Haneke isn't happy about simply making blanket political statements about the situation. For example, in the film's second scene, a white boy throws a piece of paper into a homeless woman's lap. A young black man, an immigrant from Africa, sees him and tries to force him to apologize to the woman. They get into a fight when the white boy refuses, the police see it and haul the black man, the white boy, and the homeless woman away. The black man is charged, the homeless woman, a refugee from Romania, is deported, and the white boy is let go. The criticism seems clear and obvious, until we find out that the piece of paper, which the audience is originally to think is garbage, is money. We learn this from the woman, who tells someone else about it and how she had once done nearly the same thing to someone below her in class. None of the stories are resolved. We are left to finish them for ourselves. This is one of the best films of recent years. Really, there have been a ton of highly-praised directors who rely entirely on bags of gimmicks. It's so nice to see a modern film that actually achieves something resembling a re-imagining of how narrative works in the cinema.
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Jean, a farm lad, wants to escape his silent father; he runs to Paris to his older brother, Georges, who's away covering the war in Kosovo. Angry, he throws a bag of half-eaten pastry into a beggar's lap. Amadou, a young Franco-African, berates him. The police arrive, arrest Amadou and deport the beggar. Georges's girlfriend Anne is upset; it colors her relationship with Georges when he returns from the war. Separate lives intersect for the one moment, around the pastry bag, and all are altered. We follow each as repercussions of the incident play out. Deaf children bookend the film pantomiming words, feelings, and situations: what they are expressing?
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