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Amour Blu-ray Review

Amour (2012) movie poster Amour

US Theatrical Release: December 19, 2012 / Running Time: 127 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writer/Director: Michael Haneke

Cast: Jean-Louis Trintignant (Georges Laurent), Emmanuelle Riva (Anne Laurent), Isabelle Huppert (Eva Laurent), Alexandre Tharaud (Alexandre), William Shimell (Geoff), Ramσn Agirre (Mrs. Mery - Concierge's Husband), Rita Blanco (Mr. Mery - Concierge), Carole Franck (Nurse #1), Dinara Drukarova (Nurse #2), Laurent Capelluto (Police Officer #1), Jean-Michel Monroc (Police Officer #2)
Amour is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Amour ranks 64th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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Any film given a qualifying American theatrical engagement can compete in any Oscar categories in which they are eligible, but the unspoken rule is that a feature not in English will at best compete only for the Best Foreign Language Film award.
Amour is the rare film to defy that rule. It became just the ninth non-English film to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. It also competed for Original Screenplay, Director, and Lead Actress honors. It lost all of those, but unsurprisingly won for Foreign Language Film.

That is about the highest conceivable recognition an import can find in Hollywood and it marks the most significant acknowledgement to date for Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke, a man who got his start in television in the 1970s and made the leap to cinema in 1989.

Amour tells the story of an aging, long-married couple. One morning during breakfast, octogenarian retired piano teacher Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) becomes expressionless and unresponsive to the every stimulus of her husband Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant). She comes to soon enough, but with no recollection of the episode, which we gather to be a stroke. Thus begins the challenging final chapter in Anne's life.

In "Amour", Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant) spoon-feeds his wife Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) after a stroke leaves her partially paralyzed and highly dependent.

After an unseen operation is unable to help, Anne is left paralyzed on her right side and with no chance of improving. Georges does all he can to help his wife, but is troubled by her request to avoid hospitals henceforth. While he respects that wish and Anne's expressed preference to end her life now instead of prolonging this mutually painful existence, Georges still hires nurses to take care of her and helps her with suddenly difficult basic activities, like eating and using the bathroom.

Anne's irreversible descent unfolds with diapers, dementia, and dependency. Georges explains to their middle-aged daughter (Isabelle Huppert) that Anne would appreciate some privacy. Clearly, the end is nigh, but not so nigh that this old marriage won't have to endure this dehumanizing degradement.

Amour employs a deliberate, slow pace that some viewers will find excruciating. Haneke shuns score, embraces silence, and revels in discomforting long takes. It is likely no coincidence that the film's relaxed speed corresponds with life for the typical elderly person, a title which the now 71-year-old Haneke might proudly wear.

Isabelle Huppert plays Eva, Anne's daughter and lone related visitor. Troubled by his wife's physical and mental deterioration, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) nonetheless remains supportive.

Opening at the end of the story, Amour makes its destination known, leaving details to be revealed. Defiantly unsentimental, it is arresting and heartfelt all the same. Though bleak and depressing to be sure, the film also has an uplifting quality to it in the decades of marital bliss it implies. Its reception of near-universal admiration from critics is not surprising.
This is the rare new movie made purely for adults. The subject matter easily lends to a maudlin, manipulative tear-jerker, full of nostalgic flashbacks and void of dry eyes. Instead, Haneke's film is intelligent, unflinching, and, above all else, human. Its resonance with the Academy is no mystery, either, as it soulfully tackles a phase of life familiar to a substantial portion of the votership.

Really, the biggest puzzle about the film is how Sony Pictures Classics chose to release it. Opening right before Christmas made sense, of course. But the decision to wait until mid-February, long after the Oscar nominations came in and shortly before the ceremony, to expand the film to a few hundred theaters seemed foolish. Amour stopped expanding shortly after that and instead of coming to home video while it was fresh in mind (and able to exploit Mother's Day or Father's Day as other geriatric-friendly films have), it has waited until next week, making it one of the last films of 2012 to show up on disc. Thus, not only is this the second lowest-grossing Best Picture nominee since 1983 (ahead of only Winter's Bone, which was an even more limited summer release), but it is poised to possibly become one of the worst-selling entries in that esteemed class too.

You can do your part to help Amour avoid such futility by checking it out starting Tuesday, when it hits DVD and Blu-ray.

Amour Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
5.0 DTS-HD MA (French)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired
Not Closed Captioned; One Extra Subtitled
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Amour's 1.85:1 picture is a bit grainy, but otherwise clean, sharp, nicely-defined, and utterly filmlike. The static compositions pose no troubles whatsoever in 1080p. The 5.0 DTS-HD master audio doesn't do a lot you'll notice, but its presentation of the dialogue is flawless. More importantly, for most Americans, the white subtitles are clean, bold, and, though not always literal, accurate and grammatically sound.

In outlandish rain boots, Michael Haneke directs Jean-Louis Trintignant on the set of ":Amour." Director Michael Haneke is nothing like his Twitter persona in this Los Angeles Q & A.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Amour's many accolades seem to have had no bearing on its Blu-ray extras, which consist of two featurettes typically for a Sony Pictures Classics release.

The first, the standard def "Making of Amour" (24:42; more creatively titled onscreen "Love Scenes") gives us fly-on-the-set access to production, which surprisingly occurred on a stage against green screen, as well as remarks from Haneke and his lead cast members.

There are even clips from auditions and rehearsals. Paralleling the film, it shows a little more thought and care than the typical making-of featurette. The French words are translated by burned-in English subtitles.

The second extra is a Q & A with Michael Haneke (38:55, HD) conducted by Elvis Mitchell as part of Film Independent at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They talk filmmaking at large and Haneke's body of work, while devoting a decent amount of time to Amour. Instead of subtitles translating Haneke, the interviewer's questions and the filmmaker's words both go through an interpreter, a tedious design that keeps the presentation true to what it was like for those in attendance.

Per Sony Pictures Classics' admirable policy, Amour's US theatrical trailer (1:59, HD) is kindly included.

The Previews section repeats the lot of HD trailers with which the disc loads, promoting The Gatekeepers, Before Midnight, The Company You Keep, At Any Price, and Fill the Void.

The menu plays piano music over a standard montage of clips. Like most Sony BDs, this one resumes playback and supports placing bookmarks on the film too.

Sorry, UltraViolet fans: the side-snapped case holds no inserts but does display reverse side artwork behind the disc, which sports a full color label.

Anne Laurent (Emmanuelle Riva) stares blankly off into space as the first indication that something is wrong with her.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Amour isn't an easy viewing, but it is a substantial and rewarding one. Michael Haneke's portrait of the twilight of a long marriage is poignant, haunting, and refreshingly original. This drama is certainly among last year's better films and you'll be glad you made the effort to discover it.

Sony's Blu-ray is simple but serviceable. While replay value is definitely questionable, the film is good enough to warrant a place in many collections.

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Related Reviews:
2012 Oscar Best Picture Nominees: Argo • Silver Linings Playbook • Beasts of the Southern Wild • Lincoln • Zero Dark Thirty
Additional 2012 Oscar Nominees and Winners: Searching for Sugar Man • The Impossible • Brave • The Master
2012 Foreign Films: The Intouchables • Rust and Bone • Holy Motors | Isabelle Huppert: Heaven's Gate • Dead Man Down
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar Nominees and Winners: In a Better World • Tsotsi • The Chorus • The Counterfeiters
Quartet • Wild Strawberries • Up • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly • Venus • The Last Station • The Straight Story
New: What Maisie Knew • The Sapphires • Seconds • Oblivion • Magic Magic

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Reviewed August 17, 2013.



Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2012 Sony Pictures Classics and 2013 Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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