If this year's main competition at Cannes was a little light on big name directors then that can at least be partially attributed to the fact so many of the top talents in world cinema had rocked up at the Palais des Festivals twelve months previously. The big winner amongst those big hitters back then was Michael Haneke, and he is shaping up for a return in 2011 with new movie These Two.
Haneke took home the 2009 Palme d'Or for his monochromatic drama The White Ribbon and - teensy tiny Kandor of a place that the international art-house scene is - the Cannes jury president responsible for handing over that particular pointy trinket, Isabelle Huppert, will be joining the Austrian auteur in an acting capacity on These Two. Not that this is a particularly novel development for Huppert, as she has already previously played for Haneke twice before, in The Piano Teacher and Time of the Wolf.
Huppert's role in These Two will be as the daughter of a pair of retired music teachers, Georges and Anne, with these two octogenarians being played by two faces from the golden era of French cinema, Jean-Louis Trintignant, who starred opposite Bardot in And God Created Woman, and Emmanuelle Riva, star of Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour. Both of those performers, incidentally, are veterans of the Three Colors films of Krzysztof Kieślowski, with Trintignant appearing as the retired judge-turned-snooper in Red, and Riva showing up in Blue as mother to Juliette Binoche (herself a prior Haneke collaborator, in Code Unknown and Hidden. See? Tiny).
The plot of Haneke's new film (according to Ion Cinema, via The Playlist) will see Anne struck down by a debilitating stroke, leaving her paralysed down one side. And then? Well, we guess it's then up to the family to deal with the problems this change in circumstance brings. Although if that all sounds a bit gentle for a grandmaster of European cinema who mercilessly ripped up the viewer's comfort blanket in Funny Games and essentially told the kind of well-groomed intellectuals who rave about his films that they're hypocritical arseholes in Hidden, then an earlier description of These Two as being about the “humiliation of the physical breakdown of the elderly” would seem to confirm we are in most assuredly still in that typically dark and confrontational Haneke territory.
With cameras only starting to roll on These Two in February, and shooting scheduled to last for about 40 days, the 2011 Cannes Film Festival will arrive too early for Haneke to take a tilt at his second Palme d'Or in three years. However the timing would perhaps put him in contention for the Golden Lion at Venice in September.
And for more on the movies of Michael Haneke, check out Garan Holcombe's article, Are You Sitting Uncomfortably?
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