Piano Teacher, The (Austria/France; 130min.)

directed by: Michael Haneke
starring: Isabelle Huppert; Annie Girardot; Benoît Magimel
La Pianiste
Bob says: "I was part of a good-sized crowd at the Brattle last night for THE PIANO TEACHER, and came out of it finding myself pretty deeply affected. I found it odd that so many in the audience laughed so much at the film – I don’t know if that was nervous laughter or if I’m just a lot less jaded than I thought, but I think it’s an extraordinarily sad and powerful piece of work.

"I haven’t seen any of Haneke’s other films, and wonder if the cold, naturalist, almost clinical style of THE PIANO TEACHER is common to his work. Everything is just presented to the audience straight on, without any buffer or indication of how we ought to take it, and I found myself searching Huppert’s face constantly, trying to fathom what it was her character was really going through. Oddly enough, I kept thinking of MADAME BOVARY.

"The film is oddly subtle about Erika’s particular brand of sexuality/neurosis. While her actions are clearly intended to shock the audience, we’re never given a direct view of any of it – something we’ve all come to expect: the shocking, but cathartic close-up. Instead, we’re distanced from everything but the porn film she watches in the peep show booth, and it leaves the viewer wondering if s/he is supposed to see all of this stuff as unemotionally as it’s presented. It’s a kind of visual irony. We’re shown things that Haneke knows will upset us, but we’re not given a view of those things that tells us outright “This is shocking! Just look at that!” The same is true of the source of Erika’s state. We’re given hints, we’re shown what her situation is like now, there’s the mention of her father’s fate, and of course her obsession with Schubert, but we never get a scene in which anyone theorizes about or outright explains why she is the way she is (which is of course, standard operating procedure – we’ve all learned to expect it), and why her relationship with her mother (ah, Vienna and mothers…) is the way it is. All we know is that Erika has decided that sexuality is equated with repression and pain. In fact, we’re left wondering, just like Walter, if when she gets what she’s been asking for, there’s any satisfaction at all.

"And that’s what we’re left with: a feeling that we just don’t know what we’re feeling."
Laura says: "The work of director Michael Haneke (FUNNY GAMES, CODE UNKNOWN), who also adapted the screenplay from Elfriede Jelinek's novel, is an acquired taste. His ruminations on the individual's response to societal mores, violence in particular, can take a decidedly unpleasant turn, never more so than in THE PIANO TEACHER, a difficult film to watch.

"A viewing of THE PIANO TEACHER is likely to provoke conversation, but the film's worth is questionable. To lay Erika's problems on her abusive mother is too facile. There are, however, suggestions throughout the film that Erika has subjugated herself, or her 'normalcy,' for love of music. When her student Anna's mother (Susanne Lothar) cries for all their sacrifices made meaningless, Erika replies that it was Anna who made them. She corrects a student by noting that one does not merely go from loud to soft, but from a scream to a whisper - a level of intensity achieved by the 'madness' of Schubert and Schumann. But how does all this relate to her sexual desires? Erika remarks that Schubert was ugly, unlike Walter who is handsome, and draws conclusions that Walter is not serious about music. Has Erika, therefore, tried to make herself ugly to be worthy of Schubert? And when that ugliness is acknowledged in a sexual way, why does she finally reject her art for love?

"THE PIANO TEACHER may be the ultimate depiction of suffering for one's art, but it's a brutal viewing experience. " 3 1/2 cats
For Laura's complete review: "http://www.reelingreviews.com/thepianoteacher.htm"
Michael says: "Provocative, powerful and profoundly disturbing, THE PIANO TEACHER takes an unflinching look at a troubled woman whose struggle for constant control is equal to her desire to be helpless. Isabelle Huppert is amazing as Erika, the piano professor whose twisted sexual longings and co-dependent relationship with her mother fly in the face of her steely, professorial manner and accomplished musical talent.

"It's difficult admitting that I liked this movie, since its reception among the few Chlotrudis members who've seen it has been for the most part unfavorable. Also, it deals with subjects that are unpleasant to the extreme. Director Michael Haneke (CODE UNKNOWN) isn't afraid to tackle these subjects, in fact, he details them with a matter-of-fact style that is borderline shocking. THE PIANO TEACHER is definitely a film that provokes discussion and thought. Haneke avoids moralising by focusing on the behavior of Erika, her mother, and the young man she becomes involved with without trying to explain it. There are only the vaguest of hints as to why Erika behaves the way she does, or why she and her mother have such an unusual relationship, but to provide one outright would be too facile and clumsy.

"This is heavy stuff. You will be disturbed, no doubt about it. But if you can get past the dark emotions THE PIANO TEACHER is sure to engender, you'll find an elegant movie about a deeply, troubled woman." 4 cats
Nathaniel R. says: "I had high hopes since I've heard great things about it and Haneke's previous critically beloved film, CODE INNOCU. I prize transcendent challenging acting as well so I was really looking forward to this for Isabelle Huppert's work, which doesn't disappoint. But the movie itself...

"THE PIANO TEACHER is extremely disturbing and features repeated mutilations, rape, incestual longing, pornography, and 2 hours of sheer misery -though much of it takes place in Haneke's much discussed and quite effective preference for offscreen space. When approaching uncomfortable art films such as this from an intellectual perspective (and that's the perspective that such work usually requires) the first question is always "what are they saying?" THE PIANO TEACHER'S issues and statements were too obvious to go into -although they are probably catnip to gender studying academics.

"I normally don't mind feeling uncomfortable or even awful watching films that circle or dive into misery like the entire oeuvre of Lars Von Trier, for example, or brutal stuff like REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. But the films have to give me something back aesthetically that makes that journey worthwhile. I also don't mind---I, in fact, relish the opportunity to actually think in a movie theater... but the question of 'what are the filmmakers saying?' eventually didn't matter much at all to me with this film. The next question "Why?" kept roaring at me from the back of the house. Why are they making this film? Why am I sitting here watching it? And when will this experience be over?"
Robin says: "This would be a tough film to take if it had been pared down to a reasonable 90, or so, minutes. As it is, THE PIANO TEACHER runs for two plus hours and they are grueling. Sickness abounds with Erika mutilating herself, attacking a budding student and performing sordid acts with Walter. The sex, though not graphically shown, is always sterile, passionless and sometimes violent. The ending of the film threw me for a loop and left me scratching my head as to what the heck I had just seen.

"Maybe a more creative mind than mine could have made sense out of THE PIANO TEACHER, but that doesn't make me like the film any better. " 3 1/2 cats
For Robin's complete review: "http://www.reelingreviews.com/thepianoteacher.htm"