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Code Unknown

October 17, 2010

Code Unknown (2000)
Director: Michael Haneke
Actors: Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Luminita Gheorghiou

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Synopsis: Various lives intersect in Paris…

Review: Critics often latch on to Michael Haneke’s work as being the worst form of stodgy arthouse didacticism, and though I usually defend Haneke against such an argument, his Code Unknown conforms to this critique. Painfully undramatic, Code Unknown is a series of obvious rhetorical vignettes that set to serve up Haneke’s simplistic bourgeois-bashing thesis. Arguably the most transparent of these is in a dinner-table sequence where all the white middle-class characters churn out their insignificant neuroses (dental appointments, relationship dilemmas), while the one protagonist with ‘real life’ perspective – Kosovan war photographer, Georges – sits on in stony silence. Haneke’s clear problem was in merging his political agenda to a cogent dramatic whole, and in retrospect it’s clear to see how Haneke resolved that issue, as his subsequent films – Hidden, The White Ribbon – are masterpieces of subtext trickling subtly out of brilliantly realised cinematic universes, rather than bashing the audience over the head as per Code Unknown. (October 2010)

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