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Caché opens with a long shot of a house on a street in Paris. The camera is fixed and unmoving and only the occasional pedestrian or car going by breaks up the lack of action. This shot sets the stage for the film but also allows the opening credits to appear across the scene listing (in a very small font!) no less than 15 different production companies from France, Germany and Austria. Raising money for Caché must have taken a while, and after the big fight over the Producing credits for Crash, maybe it's a good thing that Caché didn't get any Oscar nominations. This French film (with subtitles) made the rounds of all the film festivals last year and created quite a buzz starting with Cannes where it won best director for Michael Haneke. But mostly, I wanted to see Caché because it stars Juliette Binoche. She always seems to pick films that are out of the mainstream. This new film tells the story of a family living Paris. At first, the family seems to very normal. The mother (Binoche) works for a publisher and the father (Daniel Auteuil) is a TV personality. Their teenage son (Lester Makedonsky) stars on the school swim team. This apparent normality is disrupted by the arrival of mysterious anonymous videotapes. The tapes last for hours, showing the outside of their house, the camera unmoving. Accompanying the tapes, are pictures that might have been drawn by a child but which are violent. The police will not help. The stress on the family grows and grows. The father begins to have dreams from his childhood which have some strange relationship to the tapes which lead him eventually to someone from his past (Maurice Bénichou). I won't say more.
Caché is a kind of film that has gone out of style except for some horror movies, which this is not. It has the style of Alfred Hitchcock, in the continuous building of tension both on the screen and for the audience to the point where both the characters on the screen and the audience are at the breaking point. Caché is also like a Hitchcock film in the use of film tricks to accentuate the tension. It is excruciating watching the tapes, waiting for something, anything to happen. While it is very manipulative, the director, Haneke does a great job of building the tension and then releasing it in one horrifying scene. The father's dreams of his childhood are juxtaposed with the tapes by presenting them also as one motionless camera shot. So we and he are powerless to do anything but sit and watch the action unfold. The cast is very good. In addition to Binoche who is her usual strong self, it is really Auteuil as the troubled father who carries this film. He is very good. And Bénichou who comes out the past to haunt Auteuil really knocks you for a loop.
Caché is not a horror film but it is structured like one and has some shocking scenes. For instance, you find out where the expression, "like a chicken with its head cut off" comes from. It's not an easy movie to watch. Plus Caché does not have a Hollywood-type resolution at the end. It is much more like real life where sometimes you never find out what's happening to you and why. Still its unsatisfying after sitting through two hours of tense scenes to be left wondering what it was all about.