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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Productive frustration
I wasn't prepared for how powerful Caché turned out to be: it's been a long time since I've heard an entire cinema gasp in genuine shock at one sequence and it's almost as shocking second time round on the small screen when you know what's coming. On the surface it's a fairly typical French film, but it's what's under the surface that really counts. That said, it's...
Published on 22 July 2006 by Trevor Willsmer

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hidden
Essentially an intelligent drama dressed up as a thriller about guilt: how we tend to hide from it and what happens when we are forced to confront it. Unfortunately the director's determination to make his audience examine their own guilt makes the film unworkable as a thriller and you have to be content with there being no attempt to close out the story in a rational...
Published on 23 April 2008 by Stalker


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Productive frustration, 22 July 2006
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
I wasn't prepared for how powerful Caché turned out to be: it's been a long time since I've heard an entire cinema gasp in genuine shock at one sequence and it's almost as shocking second time round on the small screen when you know what's coming. On the surface it's a fairly typical French film, but it's what's under the surface that really counts. That said, it's still a film that many dismiss as empty or dilettante filmmaking, either because it's more concerned with the fallout its mystery provokes than offering a solution or because it's just trendy liberalism. It's certainly not for all tastes.

The central premise is simple enough, as Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche's comfortable bourgeois life is put under increasing strain by a series of videotapes of the their house accompanied by childish drawings of bleeding faces. The tapes show nothing: their menace comes not from their contents but the fact that they exist. Since the drawings have to come from someone who knows the character's past, is it Auteuil's Georges' own conscience that is sending them? Or is it the filmmaker himself to provoke a reaction from his characters? Significantly the tapes are all shot on a fixed camera mounted on a raised tripod in what must be a clearly visible position. The appearance of the second tape blocking a doorway that was clear earlier in the shot offers little else in the way of a possible natural explanation.

But the tapes are really just a Maguffin, a narrative device to push the characters and plot forward. This particular lost highway leads into the past, and France's inability to apologise for it's colonial past (specifically Algeria), something it absolves itself of all guilt from by repeating the mantra that it was all in the past when they were much younger and knew no better, as if that wipes out thousands of futures denied or stolen. It's no accident that the film revolves around a failed adoption that mirrors France's own failed colonisations.

While the characters are believable rather than Godardian or art-house archetypes, it's easy to ascribe a wider allegorical purpose to them. Georges is a reflection of France itself, outwardly respectable but denying his past and not acknowledging guilt over Algeria (significantly, Auteuil was born there). He simply doesn't want to talk about it. He doesn't even connect emotionally with his present, let alone his past, mother, son and wife all a part of his life he really has nothing much to say about. Nothing is ever Georges' fault, not even a near accident crossing the street. He blames a cyclist for his careless mistake, showing that he has learned nothing from his past but is still repeating it. As with the opening of Haneke's epic of non-communication, Code Unknown, he is oblivious to the wider implications of what is to him a trivial moment or of the possible consequences of his moment of self-righteous anger.

Just as he edits out anything 'too theoretical' in his TV show, he tries to re-edit his own past (just as the French government did last year when it passed a law that "the benefits of French colonisation in foreign countries should be recognised and integrated into school programs.") but can't do it quite so easily. Not that he doesn't try. Both of Georges' initial flashbacks are dishonest reinventions of memory: Georges turns his childish conspiracy against one character into his victim terrorising him, reinventing his memory and history to reflect his current interpretation of events and reality. It's this reinvention that allows him to honestly claim without any real evidence that he is being terrorised - "a campaign of terror" are his exact words - by the person he has wronged, actions currently being replayed in Iraq. To France, the atrocities inflicted on the Algerians don't matter - it's the threat to Georges that, in his childlike ignorance, is all that matters and must be dealt with radically.

Indeed, even though Majid and his son are French-born, both are regarded as foreigners, intruders. Yet neither conforms to the stereotyped 'Arab' image: polite, sad, very pointedly not aggressive, yet still regarded purely as a threat for being goaded into an action for which they were punished.

Binoche can be seen as the French people, kept in the dark, asked for their trust although trust is not extended to them in much the same way that Blair in the UK asked for people's trust over the intelligence that led to the UK's involvement in Iraq yet never revealed nor explained his reasons beyond his contention that he was convinced it was "the right thing to do, but it's time to move forward." But if Binoche is the French people, she is no more admirable herself. Both ignore the violence and torture that plays unwatched on a TV in the background in one scene and concentrate on their own immediate priorities.

I still haven't had time to fully digest all the implications of the ending - is he committing suicide himself? (Probably not since he feels no guilt.) Is the hidden shot of two children talking to each other in the final shot a sign of complicity or the way that each generation is doomed to suffer for the sins of the father? Is it the next tape to be sent? It's almost a Rorschach Test for the viewer: how you interpret it says more about you than the film.

Haneke makes no secret that he isn't interested in providing answers but rather is forcing questions on the viewer to make them more of a participant: "I'm not going to give anyone the answer. If you think it's Majid, Pierrot, Georges, the malevolent director, God himself, the human conscience - all these answers are correct. But if you come out wanting to know who sent the tapes, you didn't understand the film. To ask this question is to avoid asking the real question the film raises, which is more: how do we treat our conscience and our guilt and reconcile ourselves to living with our actions... I look at it as productive frustration. Films that are entertainments give simple answers but I think that's ultimately more cynical, as it denies the viewer room to think."

Decent extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include making of documentary Hidden Face, interview with Michael Haneke and trailer - but don't look for any answers there.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Middle Brow Sterility - Amnesia, 30 Jun 2012
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Like a languid picnic on a hot summers day, the participants may be chasing away the ants and blue bottles whilst mopping the sweat from their flurried brows, as multiple dynamics emanate from a fixed set scenario. Lying under a total amnesiac blanket is the blue bottle in the Chablis.

This coats itself over the baked bread of modernity to probe the flaked scab which lies under the hardened crust. Then it reveals a startling picture of scuttling insects scurrying as they inhabit the brain and memory channels. Each microbe tries to reassemble the past to fit it into the present, and to create a resonating future dream all based on an innate gossamer tissue of lies.

The film focuses on how these hidden emotional undercurrents are rearranged to fit this glossy represented version of composed power point reality. Using the modern technologies of CCTV cameras, mobile phones and TV's he builds a narrative, looking at the middle class lie and the sewer that lies underneath and how the present connects directly to the past.

Our hero, is not what he appears on his TV screen persona, erudite, incisive, surrounded by the attributes of culture. In emotional reality he uses these as props to hide away from himself, and in particular his troubled conscience which each night sits him on a turning spit and then roasts him in his sweated fevered dreams over an open fire of his memories..ouch.

Each sleep mare forces him to shift from his composed daily fiction to inhabit his past life, as he beams back to a time when he set up his friend, a kid already traumatised into an orphanage, due to an inner jealousy. Not just any kid, but one whose parents were killed by the french police when they were protesting against injustice in the 1960's. This is when the french police pushed the protesters into the Seine and killed them, the same police who were headed by Bousequet, the man who rounded up the Jews back in the 1940's. The kid is sent away to a children's home where god knows what happened to him in the 1950's/60's/70's.

In flash back we get glimpses of the sedate farmhouse becoming the haven for a nasty ongoing dynamic. Meanwhile we are led into modern sterile erstatz french middle class lifestyles, all based on tiers of mis communication, as each person is locked within another socially autistic world; leaving the son to grow up by himself. No one notices whether a 12 year old actually returns home or not, it becomes a metaphor for a middle class social norm. As the lifestyle is "all about me."

Meanwhile tapes and notes are being left for our hero, who feels threatened by an outside force and brings himself to a Daily Mail psychological besieged state of brimming fury, directed at those beneath him, where he must constantly man the ramparts of his personal castle to fire his vengeance onto the unknown threat.

It is of course his conscience, played out in the night, returning during the day. He is the alienated man and has split into two, the actor and himself, each feels a deep unease when confronting each other on a constant daily basis.

As the story unfurls this is like passing the buns, lemonade and the cucumber sandwiches whilst the sun beams onto the happy scenario, until a familiar face turns up shakes hands and then....whoooshhhhhh. On the surface, it reflects the tedium of modern life, with its incessant bland sterile passive aggression and inculcated manners, but dig a little deeper and a whirling malevolence within the middle class charade oozes out of repressed childhoods, as deep lanced sores and boils, bubbling with crud coated over with another duly purchased blanket, keep reappearing.

An absolutely stunning psychological blast of a film that penetrates as hard as it can without making a silent whimper, replete with stunning performances from the assembled cast.

Dull, tedious, nothing happens except....yes that is the point...it is a mirror, not an escape route into another comfort blanket...

Be warned of the reflection!!!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cash for Cache, 15 Sep 2011
This review is from: Hidden [Blu-ray] [2005] (Blu-ray)
German director Michael Haneke is not everyone's cup of tea. Like a number of European "auteurs" through film history, his movies tend towards the philosophical if not existential, and because of this they can be both exciting and infuriating in equal measure. The Piano Teacher had all the repressed sexuality of Belle de Jour at its best, yet his "Hollywood" re-make of horror-in-the-cabin-in-the-woods thriller Funny Games seemed unnecessary to say the least. Hidden is probably the movie he is most well-known for in both Europe and America and while not perfect - and the plodding plot and anxious silences are not the stuff of modern-day British and American thrillers for sure - the mood of the piece, and the brooding atmosphere of some terrible event to come, is to be admired here. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche deliver terrific performances as a couple with secrets, pasts and dilemmas all stored up and ready to burst forth the moment a series of videos of them and their home start appearing at the door. And if you do want to get all intellectual about it, the film is something of a commentary on our increasingly Facebook/Twitter/blogging-obsessed lives and how so little of what we hold as private and dear can be kept so in the modern age. But the movie is also just a great psychological thriller. Slow, meditative and self-conscious? Yes, and that's why it won't be everyone's idea of a Friday night picture with pizza. The film's shocking moment and denouement won't necessarily inspire all either, but cinema ought to be thoughtful and provocative at times as well as entertaining and forgettable at others. Whatever you might think of Haneke, his films are never the last of these descriptions.
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72 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb and thought-provoking, 24 Mar 2006
By 
S. J. Williams "stevejw2" (Leeds, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Unlike the last reviewer, I think Hidden is stunning. The lack of music doesn't bother me: the film is made with such subtlety and surefootedness that Haneke doesn't need the emotional prompting that so many films require from a soundtrack. Music can be great where it's needed and this film doesn't need it and would be spoiled by it. As for the patronising attitude to French films, what can one say. Don't like them, don't watch them. I admire the way this film-maker is prepared to entertain (yes!) and make his audience think.
The absence of closure is, of course, an essential element in the success of the film. Inevitably we speculate on the level of story - just who did send the tapes? However, as everyone recognises, the film is about more than the Laurents' and particularly George's guilt. Making a character responsible for the tapes would apportion 'guilt' and that is a key theme of the film: George's guilt; France's in relation to Algeria; the coalition's in relation to Iraq (it isn't for nothing that one scene has a news report from the Middle East in prominent background); the viewer's reponsibilities for events in their lives.
I read the film as exploring the nature of guilt, taking responsibility for what we do and the way(s) we go about that. At the end of the film, George has gone to bed, taken pills, shut out the world as much as he can. What he did as a child may be understandable, though unkind and cruel: he wanted his parents to himself, though it is clear and ironic that as an adult he doesn't want his mother or her farm at all.
That it isn't a conventional thriller is obvious from the opening frame though it exploits elements of the genre: there is no 'set up' or equilibrium to be disrupted beyond the duration of shot one until the tape is rewound: the first shot throws us into the mystery of the surveillance, as though it had always existed (perhaps like the stirrings of George's conscience/guilt for his childhood behaviour).
The handling of point of view is brilliant and unsettling too: much of the time we are unsure whose eyes we are seeing through. It also seems to me that the whole movie could, in a sense, not really be happening but represents George's fear of his guilty conscience.
I wouldn't claim to be able to give a masterclass on this film and understand every nuance, but that's OK: I only saw it last night for the first time, and it has been pre-occupying me since. I shall certainly be going back to enjoy its thought provoking narrative and superb craftsmanship. A great film.
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49 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden, 23 Feb 2006
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Caché - 'Hidden' - directed by Michael (The Piano Teacher) Haneke, is a masterclass on how to unnerve your audience, not through what you necessarily show but by what is indeed hidden from view. Georges (Daniel Auteil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) are a bourgeois Parisian couple with a teenage son. Georges is presenter and producer of a literary debate tv show, a man with the power to edit the discussion within his programme and present an alternative version of the past to his viewers. But has Georges been economical with the truth of his family history? He and his wife begin receiving videotapes of their home, apparently filmed from across the street. The same viewpoint frustratingly forced upon the viewer in the opening credit sequence, this is one of many static shots in the film that provoke as many questions as they might at first seem to resolve. What at a first glance appear to be voyeuristic recordings in fact give nothing away.
More tapes follow - as do disturbing, childlike drawings of decapitated chickens, which hark back to a memory of Georges', which is made manifest in a nightmare. Is it an elborate prank being played by their son, who suspects his mother to be having an affair with a family friend, or something more sinister? Georges tracks down what he believes is the culprit to an estate in the Paris suburbs. There he is reunited with a man he has not seen since he was six years old, an orphaned Algerian who Georges' family had looked after as a boy when his parents were killed in the Paris massacre of immigrants in 1961. But Georges has a guilty secret. Did he, as a young boy, set up this Algerian orphan to be sent to a mental institution? Flashbacks give suggestions but, again, frustratingly, the full reality of the situation is obscured.
Caché skillfully and subtly plays with audience expectations, with most of its inner tensions unresolved apart from one brief and terrifyingly visceral moment. Against convention, this moment of extreme violence - as it involves the death of a key character - seeks to further bury and obstruct our access to the truth, while simultaneously heightening the suspence. The film could also be construed as a metaphor for France's inability come to terms with its relationship with Algeria, arrogantly rewriting its colonial past. But like much of the narrative, this is not made explicit, but is rather a further provocation in a film filled with subtle antagonisms. Brilliant.
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37 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Subtlety of French culture wins out, 6 Mar 2007
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
The polarisation of reviews here seems to me to show the difference between Hollywood and European culture - the French tolerate ambiguity, Americans don't! Where the US film industry expects to provide its audience with a resolution to tie up all ends neatly, Haneke reminds us that life's not like that and to add an artificial ending would simply prevent the audience from using its intelligence to speculate on what happened next.

Far from being a "cop-out" ending, this is an enigmatic, almost elegaic ending to a beautifully crafted film in which the viewer eavesdrops on conversations and by inference is the voyeur intruding on the happy lives of Daniel Auteuil and Juliet Binoche (whose acting, free of the constraints of melodrama, is both minimalist and totally spellbinding.) Is the answer in the childhood of Georges, or through his son Pierrot? In the final analysis, it is we the audience who feel guilt for our unwitting participation and inertia as we observe the tragedy played out.

Haneke's subtlety and timing are wonderous. The joy of Hidden is how the atmosphere is built up through a silent soundtrack, glorious cinematography with lingering shots to build up a depth of understanding about the character's emotions, a spare script and the brilliant use of a sudden, unexpected shock. It leaves you edgy and uncomfortable without the need for explicit disclosure (except for one, very graphic instance) - and without closure the haunted feeling didn't leave my mind for hours afterwards

I came away feeling not cheated but slightly awe-struck, stimulated and challenged rather than force-fed. As such, I regard this as a very fine movie, worthy of comparison with great thrillers like Day of the Jackal.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Even if you do not like the film, watch Auteuil and Binoche's performances. You will not have seen better., 23 Aug 2007
By 
steve b (Dudley England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Hidden clearly splits viewers into two camps, those who love it and compare it to what Hollywood would do with the same subject, and those who believe it is arty, pretentious, French rubbish.

Although I believe it is not as good as some of it's supporters claim, I do come down on the side of those like, rather than loath it. It is slow when compaired to most European films let alone American ones. This film is often called a thriller. If you watch it because you are expecting a thriller, then you will feel cheated. It is a film about guilt and the stress that the events cause to the family.

Even those who do not like this film cannot but praise the performances of Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. It is acting of the highest order and totaly believable. A film worth watching just to see these two performances.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hidden, 23 April 2008
By 
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
Essentially an intelligent drama dressed up as a thriller about guilt: how we tend to hide from it and what happens when we are forced to confront it. Unfortunately the director's determination to make his audience examine their own guilt makes the film unworkable as a thriller and you have to be content with there being no attempt to close out the story in a rational way. Often films such as this give you enough pieces to conjure up your own explanations but here those pieces are deliberately not provided so it's futile to try and draw any conclusions: there aren't enough characters or motives to identify a human villain besides the obvious.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All is Hidden, 9 Jan 2009
By 
Kismet (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
This has to be the most intriguing and interesting film I have seen in a long time. As the hours and days pass since I first watched it, I continue to see new angles and dimensions to this film. It operates on many levels. Everything is not what it seems. It is a film of the unconscious.

The viewer gets a clue to what the film is about in the form of what seems an amusing little anecdote told over a smart dinner party.

On the face of it, all is comfortable, intriguing, successful, attractive, even enviable, from a bourgeoise perspective. But scratch the surface of anything and something uncomfortable lurks beneath. The film is often considered frustrating because, like our own shadow, all is not knowable. The unconscious is not available for scrutiny, analysis and clear-cut answers. Hidden takes the viewer unwittingly down a scenic route of their own selfish assumptions.

Haneke very cleverly uses the viewers own 'greed' to know, to unravel, to make sense and have tidy answers of the obvious story line. He also plays with our fears and opinions to test our self-honesty in terms of where we deny our own shadow self.

The viewer is taken through a series of value systems that scream out man's inhumanity to man. We skim along the edges of our dark sides. Where we truly dare to dip in and allow the experience of dischord, there is, at least, some honesty and integration of self.

In our quest to quickly find solutions, we must make snap judgements, entertain suspicions, all without really seeing much more than the facade. We have hints and clues that something incongruous pulses through each dynamic but we are consistently frustrated to discover the full 'that which is hidden'.

How quickly did we sweep away all that was uncomfortable? Majid's removal from the family home was so shocking by virtue of its starkness. And, yet, it symbolised how the psyche treats its own troubled thoughts. Instead of nurturing them into wellness, they are swept away to suffer, abandoned and neglected. The more their presence is denied, the more empowered they become to haunt and disturb, even the innocence.

How long, one must ask, did we dare to really feel and investigate the darkness? Or did we prefer to grasp at a neat get-out and pretend all was not so bad. However, in the quest to have our own mind satisfied and made tidy again, the viewer makes judgements and treats the instances of other people's suffering as fodder for our own selfish quest of knowledge and answers.

It is a film that is essentially self-reflective of our own darkness. It gives huge scope to ponder where, in each scene, the psyche dared to look beneath, at what point that became too uncomfortable to stay with, which issues did we drop and reassure ourselves that it was not so bad and what values we were willing to slide along with to assuage ambiguity.

The thriller aspect was a very clever vehicle with which to deliver the hidden film beneath.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Conscience., 8 Feb 2014
By 
B. L. Rudd "GUITARIST" (FRANCE) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Hidden (cache) [DVD] (DVD)
This is a slow burner about conscience and how it creeps up on you, references in other reviews about lifestyle and chablis are irrelevant. I've yet to meet someone who has not done something they regret, just how much they torture themselves with it afterways, depends on the individual and possibly their level of intelligence. I liked the movie and have watched it twice. In the final scenes it is conceivable that Dannys character commits suicide because his phone call to his wife asks that his son does'nt think too harshly of his dad. I don't care for movies that spell it out, I like to consider all the possibities.
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