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The Piano Teacher, June 22

Isabelle Huppert: Passion and Contradiction

Thursday, June 22, 2006
7:30 p.m. The Piano Teacher
Michael Haneke (Austria/France, 2001)

(La pianiste). Set in Vienna, city of Freud and Great Composers (albeit a Vienna where, inexplicably, everyone speaks French), Michael Haneke's clinical melodrama of civilization and its discontents hones the razor's edge between perversity and art. Huppert won the Best Actress prize at Cannes for her performance as Erika, a brilliant musician with a monstrous mother and an affinity for Schubert, sex shops, and self-mutilation. "I have no feelings. If I do, they will never defeat my intelligence," Erika declares, but when a handsome, insolent young student-cum-lover refuses to enact her carefully sadomasochistic script, she enters a territory of emotional violence beyond anything her intellect can comprehend. Like Erika at the piano, Huppert is a master of subtle and unforgiving interpretation. She astonishingly turns a case study into a character, conveying the desire for control and the desire to lose it in a performance as pellucid and jagged as broken glass.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by Haneke, from the novel by Elfriede Jelinek. Photographed by Christian Berger. With Isabelle Huppert, Benoît Magimel, Annie Girardot, Anna Sigalevitch. (129 mins, In French with English subtitles, Color, 35mm, PFA Collection, permission Kino)