Saturday, July 5, 2008

La Pianiste (The Piano Teacher)

So what is this one about?
Well, it was the Netflix description that made me interested in renting this one. (You know, I think with the way I am constantly extolling the virtues of Netflix they should like, I dunno, pay me for my spokesperson skillz.) Another thing that is great about the flix is that they have recommendations like "Since you liked _____, you'll probably like_______" and this movie was suggested for me.

Anyway, the description says, Isabelle Huppert stars as Erika, an emotionally repressed piano teacher still tied to her obsessive mother (Annie Girardot) and fast approaching spinsterhood. When an attractive student (Benoit Magimel) in her class becomes smitten with her, Erika sees him as a potential player in her dark sexual fantasies. Huppert is fascinating to watch in this disturbing character study based on Nobel Literature Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek's novel.

I guess they were fairly accurate in their suggestion.

And how much did I pay to watch?
Since June 10th I have gotten 16 dvds out from Netflix. At $16.99 per month I am averaging $1.06 per disc so far this month. However. It isn't over yet!!

And what did I think?
Well, well, well. Huppert was in fact fascinating to watch in this film.

I think the film really worked as a character study in madness. Huppert said in the commentary that she thought the film was about romance/love and seduction, and I think thats accurate, but I think I'd add madness to the categories too. Erika was a straighlaced, incredibly uptight woman who was in a bizarre relationship with her mother. As a 40 year old she not only still lived with her mother, but was constantly having to justify where she was, where she was going, and what she was doing. To add to the weirdness...and I mean really add to it, she shared a bed with her mother. I assume that upon her father's death her mother told her to sleep in his space in the bed.

Like anyone who is so beholdent to their mother when they are adults, Erika had a secret side. She frequented sex shops, watched couples making out at drive in movies, and had dark fantasies involving domination, humiliation, and pain. These vignettes were stark comparisons to when she was acting as a controlling and overly demanding piano teacher. In one scene [SPOILER ALERT] when she goes into one of those movie watching booths at a porn shop, she watches a porno movie and takes a used tissue out of the trash inside the booth (with, well, you know what is on the tissue) and holds it over her nose and mouth while watching the movie. Her dark fantasies go from this point.

Once her student shows interest in her she resists. Huppert explained that the character wanted romance and not seduction, and that is why she always struggled to be in control. Once she saw that she could control her boyfriend she let him in on all her fantasies (rape, battery, humiliation...etc) and he was horrified. When he rejected her she flipped out. From there the movie switches to a focus on the madness that one can go through when the person they love rejects them. Boy, she does a lot of things to win him back, with horrible results.

The last scene of the film brings the whole movie to a new level. It was so amazing I actually verbalized "holy shit". It was amazing!!

So what is the rating? (out of 10)
This film was totally not for everyone. From the description you should be able to tell if you could watch this one, but if you think you can I would absolutely recommend it. There were scenes in the movie that were very uncomfortable to watch, but they were crucial to the climax of the film.

As I said, the last scene just made the film. It was extraordinary. I rate it a 7.5-8. It was really very good.

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