The Piano Teacher

Isabelle Huppert and Benoît Magimel at the piano

Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher came out in 2001, just about halfway through his remarkable 20-year run of films starting with 1992’s Benny’s Video, ending with 2012’s Amour and taking in Funny Games, Time of the Wolf, Hidden and The White Ribbon. All of them have a pitiless, lidless-eyed quality to them, and The Piano Teacher won all the major awards at Cannes when it was shown there. That will never happen again – the rules were changed so as to spread the love a bit wider in subsequent years. It’s an unusual film for Haneke because he didn’t write it and didn’t intend to direct it. He took on Elfriede Jelinek’s novel … Read more

Coup de Torchon

Cordier puts a move on Rose Marcaillou

Bertrand Tavernier’s 1981 movie Coup de Torchon is a bizarre adaptation of Jim Thompson’s novel Pop. 1280. Bizarre not because Tavernier and his co-writer Jean Aurenche have moved the action from Texas to West Africa. Nothing wrong with that. It’s the way they’ve excised Thompson’s black humour and inserted French farce in its place, draining the story of power as they do so. It’s 1938 and we’re in Senegal, where the white colonial French lord it over the black locals. They’re a mixed bunch, the whites, most of whom wouldn’t amount to much back home but have a status and lifestyle out here that, Tavernier makes clear, is really rather lovely. They drink, … Read more


Isabelle Huppert as Frankie

Having made films with more than a hint of the French about them – character driven, focused on metropolitan angst, loose, semi-improvised acting style, unafraid to let nothing happen – Ira Sachs finally gets almost all of the way there with Frankie, a drama set in Portugal but with plenty of French speakers in his cast. Patrice Chéreau’s 1998 drama Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (Ceux Qui M’aiment Prendront le Train) is a close analogue, though here the central figure around which everything spins is still alive. She’s played by Isabelle Huppert as Françoise (aka Frankie), a famous actress who has called all her family together in Sintra, Portugal, for … Read more

Time of the Wolf

Lucas Biscombe and Isabelle Huppert in Time of the Wolf

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 11 August Mesoamerican long count calendar, 3114BC On this day in 3114BC, the world was created. Or it was if you are using the MesoAmerican, or Mayan, long form calendar, which takes 11 August 3114BC as the day the universe sprang into life. The calendar uses a modified base 20 scheme to tally its days, modified so that the second to last digit rolls over to zero when it reaches 18 (so this second to last digit is in base 18). The calendar is notable for using a zero to indicate a place with nothing in it (so is the … Read more