PRINT January 2006


Michael Haneke's Caché

I LIKE TO MAKE a simple distinction between a reviewer and a critic: The reviewer writes for those who haven’t seen a film, telling readers whether they shouldn’t and offering a fairly clear idea of what the film is and does; the critic assumes the reader has seen it, making a plot synopsis superfluous, and attempts to engage him or her in an imaginary dialogue about its content, its degree of success, its value. The great literary critic F. R. Leavis summed up very succinctly the ideal critical exchange: “This is so, isn’t it?” “Yes, but . . . ”

With the films of Michael Haneke, this principle assumes particular importance. The Viennese director has frequently denounced Hollywood cinema because it habitually constructs the spectator as passive: We lean back in our seats and have everything spelled out for us, the film leading us carefully from point to point. Haneke, on the contrary,

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