Necks, Lies, and Videotape

It was anonymously left on the doorstep, waiting to be found. It’s wrapped in a child-like sinister drawing and placed in a plastic shopping bag. The doorstep belongs to the Parisian family Laurent, which consists of television show host Georges (Daniel Auteuil), his wife (Juliette Binoche) and their adolescent son Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). And the mysterious content is a videotape and its content is a two-hour surveillance footage of the Laurent’s house. Creepy. Disturbing.

This is the premise of the French film “Caché.” It’s a movie packaged like an indie, wrapped as a thriller, but the internal content is a chunky drama. As the story spools, it’s revealed that Georges has a gut-level hunch as to who masterminded the prank, but conceals it from his wife since it concerns his past. The “hidden” drama involves cracks in the family and the stubborn past that can’t be left behind. In “Caché,” the showcase is really the acting. Actors Auteil and Binoche turn in acute performances, where internal paranoia and frustration attempt to take over their lives.

I’m less thrilled with the plot because it’s not as thrilling as the premise suggests. Even if the film has streaks of originality, the drama still loosens the tight pacing. My problem is the way the filmmaker goes into experimental mode. It tries to portray realism by clearly avoiding what we expect from a film, dismissing our expectations as if they aren’t based on reality. The result is a seemingly dissonant film, aiming to be both realistic and experimental. The execution kinda works. I have to respect the film for being uncompromising by not tying up loose ends although the last shots offer some intriguing conclusions. The film, as a whole though, is tepidly satisfying. It’s great to unwrap, but not the kind to treasure.

Grade: B

Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou, Annie Girardot, Lester Makedonsky, Bernard Le Coq, Walid Afkir, and Daniel Duval
Screenplay by
Michael Haneke
Directed by
Michael Haneke
Rated R for brief strong violence