2005, Movie, R, 121 mins


A master of the icy yet visceral shock, Austrian-born Michael Haneke often turns his formidably unpleasant imagination to the movie equivalent of a cruel prank. But in CACHE ("Hidden"), the subject matter is worthy of his nastiness: What first appears to be a subtly sadistic campaign of terror against one annoyingly smug, bourgeois French intellectual proves rooted in global discontents, national character and personal responsibility. Middle-age TV personality Georges (Daniel Auteuil), host of a literary roundtable program, lives with his wife, Anne (Juliette Binoche), and their 12-year-old (Lester Makedonsky) in a handsome apartment filled with books, art and cultured knickknacks. Cocooned in a world of brittle conversation and middle-class comfort, they're deeply unsettled when a videotape appears outside their front door, one that consists of a lengthy surveillance shot of their building. If it's a joke, neither Anne nor Georges can figure out the punch line. If it's a threat, they're both baffled by its nature and origin. A second cassette arrives wrapped in a childish drawing of a blood-spattered face, followed by more tapes and more bloody scrawls. The police say they can do nothing. But even before the arrival of a tape showing the country home where Georges grew up and his aging mother (Annie Girardot) still lives, it seems increasingly clear that the veiled message is directed at Georges. His peevish protestations of ignorance ring hollow, and during a visit with his mother, he alludes to "Majid" and some long-ago unpleasantness that they circumvent with practiced deference. Yet another tape, which prowls the shabby hallway of a low-income building before coming to rest on a battered apartment door, leads Georges to a charged confrontation with Majid (Maurice Benichou), an Algerian man his own age whom life has clearly treated less kindly. But Majid denies knowing anything about the matter, and Georges' decision to keep their encounter secret has serious repercussions at home when the stalker delivers a new tape showing their lengthy conversation; her husband's secretiveness has made her look at him with newly ungenerous eyes. Haneke's trademark perversity guarantees that while the drama between George and Majid comes to a brutal conclusion, the persecution doesn't. Anyone looking for the comfort in a tense thriller ending in a satisfying restoration of order and psychological security will be bitterly disappointed, but Haneke isn't in the business of encouraging comforting illusions. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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