Michael Haneke's brilliant 2005 anti-thriller Caché stars plumped-up versions of Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil as a bourgeois couple who receive an eerie video on their doorstep one morning: a simple recording of their apartment building's facade. The opening is brilliant, featuring a sort of cinematic version of trompe l'oeil that takes a grip on the viewer, and then ... well, the simplicity gets pretty complicated.
The plot is so straightforward that it works like a slow off-speed pitch, baffling precisely because of its simplicity. Saying more would spoil the fun, so suffice it to say that Haneke frees himself up to study his characters and invest every frame with a wealth of detail that a speedier pace or trickier plot wouldn't afford him.
Georges and Anne (that's Auteuil and Binoche, sporting appropriately anonymous monikers) feel violated by the mysterious delivery and those that follow it. They'd like to think that their spacious apartment—buttressed with walls of dense bookshelves and an elaborate entertainment unit—is armored against invasion by virtue of its shabby chic perfection. But their middle-class intellectual status doesn't inure them to the uneasiness and guilt that the deliveries provoke. Think of their lodgings as the fortified inverse of the dangerously open and airy country home of Funny Games. Bad things don't happen to people like us, they might be saying. Haneke has a devil of a time replying "Yes, but maybe they should?"
The sadism of Funny Games is refined into a much smarter analysis of character in Caché, but the sense of humor is still there. This is not a thriller in which the victims are viewer surrogates, and Haneke short-circuits most of the conventions of the thriller genre. What results is something ambiguous but never vague, sharply focused but not polemic. I'm never sure exactly how I'm supposed to feel watching Auteuil and Binoche squirm under the film's lens, but I can be sure there's a grin behind the camera.
This is the next-to-last entry in Galaxy Cinema's series of French films, and there's one screening only. In two weeks, the series concludes with La Cage Aux Folles. —Nathan Gelgud