Comment Dites-Vous Le ‘Morceau De Merde’ En Français?

I’ve proven to myself again that any obscure film I place in my Netflix queue has a decent probability of sucking large. In this case it is with a 2005 gem from froggyland called Caché.

The problem is, I scan a lot of capsulated movie reviews be they online or in print in the various alternative papers. And when I find a film that gets a rave report I often will just buy into the hype and toss it up on my Netflix list where it languishes forgotten until finally arriving, at which point I usually review the contents in the envelope and grunt an audible “Hunh?” while simultaneously wondering what I could’ve been thinking.

Abridged from the DVD’s sleeve:

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director award, Michael Haneke’s psychological thriller centers on a wealthy French couple who begin receiving threatening videotapes and phone calls. Eventually the husband realizes who the perpetrator is but refuses to tell his wife, causing a rift. Flashbacks of his childhood reveal the mystery, a story that illuminates France’s damaged relations with Algeria.

You know what the key words are in that blurb that should have sent me packing the disk back from where it came? That’s right: “psychological thriller.” In my experience films that claim to be such play out the term to be oxymoronic; very much like anything dubbed a “black comedy,” which is usually only funny to the writer, producer and maybe the director (though not necessarily in that order).

I kid you not, the film opens with a static shot of some house in Paris as the opening credits in an unreadable font size unfurl slowly across the screen as if double-spaced typewritten, carriage-returning at the right margin and continuing excrutiatingly onward from the production companies involved all the way to the director. But when that’s finally finished, does the movie actually begin?

Nah, the camera stays stagnant on the street scene for what had to be close to another two minutes until finally some French voiceovers (presumably the husband and wife) start talking to each other and shortly thereafter it’s revealed that the couple are watching what we’re watching… on videotape inside the house. Nice trick, director.

So apparently the plot’s now rolling and some unknown person has made this allegedly ominous tape and left it on their doorstep, right? Well, sort of. Shortly thereafter the director decides he was so clever with the opening shot he’s going to put his audience through it again and after another tape is delivered we’re forced to sit through another eternity of the same exterior shot.
Anyway, the perpetrator decides blessedly to switch mediums (maybe the batteries on the creep’s camcorder died?) and takes to leaving notes and postcards that feature a childlike drawing of a head throwing up blood. To confound matters, the director slips in dark and unexplained clips (that Susan and I discern to be flashbacks to the husband’s childhood) of some kid with blood all over his face.

Shortly thereafter Susan threw in the towel and adjourned to the backyard to engage in the far more entertaining diversion of watching the pups play outside. I joined her for a bit but came back inside to give the film one last chance. Before its glacial pacing slipped me off into a coma from which there was no returning, I watched in horror yet another cryptic flashback that featured the graphic beheading of a chicken that would’ve had the Humane Society all up in arms had the film been made here. In keeping with the pacing, the director let the camera roll as the bird’s headless body jumped and flipped and flapped and then flapped and flipped and jumped for far too long an extended period of time before the husband finally woke up from the nightmare.

I would’ve ejected the disk, but instead I was dragged down into unconciousness and boring dreams of me watching never-ending videotapes of houses as unreadable text teletyped itself across the screens.

Now that was scary.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."