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FILM – Caché (Hidden) [2005] – Michael Haneke – the mechanisms of secrecy, amnesia and denial.



Posted 25 November 2009




FILM SNIP HANEKE CACHE cacher cassalls


Cassell’s French-English Dictionary






Wordreference.com




“I try to construct stories so that several explanations are possible, to give the viewers the freedom to interpret. I do it by everything I don’t show, and through all the questions I raise and don’t answer. That way, the audience doesn’t finish with the film as quickly as if I’d answered everything.”

— Michael Haneke




“Cache” is one of those films that I instantly hated from the bottom of my heart for being incredibly pretentious while having the substance of a mediocre high-school essay

—a pseudonymous ‘novakant‘.





Wiki: Caché


Dialogue transcript (not screenplay/script) from Script-O-Rama
A continuous dialogue without scene divisions. Not a script or screenplay as such.


Reviews and Analysis

These reviews and analyses contain spoilers. I’m trying to gather together here some of the better ones. The reviews and more academic papers have got a bit jumbled as more have been added. None are in order of importance.

Three additions on 24 January 2010:

Two recent posts posts by Jim Emerson, What is hidden in Caché? and, The Haneke MacGuffin: What is the mystery? and a long essay in Cinephile by Seung-hoon Jeong, Gaze, Suture, Interface: The Suicide Scene in Michael Haneke’s Caché. Personally, I haven’t the slightest idea what this Lacanian stuff means, and I don’t suppose many do.

Two more reviews added May 2014:

Caché (Haneke, 2005) and the concept of Realism from Cultural Zeitgeist 3 November 2102 [link from Cache/ Hidden (2005)… Haneke’s physical and ideological silence]

A wiki:The Fright of Real Tears, which refers to a book by Zizek, The Flight of Real Tears: Krzysztof Kieslowski between Theory and Post-Theory, does help a little with this if you don’t want to spend half your life on it, but get some basic idea, including the term suture. There is an interesting section in the wiki, The Fictional Nature of Reality and the Art of Kieslowski, for those interested in Kieslowski. And a link to an article by David Bordwell, from the other camp, titled, Slavoj Zizek: Say Anything, taking on Zizek’s book.

The paper has the benefit however, of a Vimeo of the initial part of the suicide of Majid (French, no subtitles) for purposes of reminding us where the camera is positioned (though the full effect of the static camera can only be experienced by seeing the whole shot) and four stills from the film. Though the final one of the credits is not particularly helpful because it doesn’t show either of the sons.

COTA Award for Best Title for a Review of Caché goes to […..pause] :

The Discreet Masochism of the Bourgeoisie by A O Scott in NYT. Unfortunately the review itself doesn’t stand up to the promise of the title. Scott does mention the BoBo business directly, whereas others don’t. Bobo link at the bottom.

Hidden (Caché) by Peter Bradshaw [Guardian, 2006]

Final paragraph succinctness:

Hidden is Michael Haneke’s masterpiece: a compelling politico-psychological essay about the denial and guilt mixed into the foundations of western prosperity, composed and filmed with remarkable technique. It is one of the great films of this decade.

Review: Caché (Hidden) [Christopher Campbell, Cinematical]
Header still photo from Caché of Georges at his desk, Anne on the phone, and the TV showing war footage. Mention of ’61 massacre and Papon: links to page on 1992 documentary: Drowning by Bullets.

Hidden [Anton Bitel, Eye for Film]

Caché [Ken Hanke]

Caché : Smile You’re on Candid Camera [Marty Mapes]

Caché (Hidden) [Frank Swietek, Ass. Prof. Hist., U of Dallas]

Caché [Lon Harris, Crushed by Inertia blog]
Maybe he muses Monty Python’s sketch : Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things does the job quicker. ( “I have just discovered, gentlemen,” Graham Chapman announces as club president, “that this entire room is surrounded by film.”)

Hidden (Caché) Ben Greener [in MusicOMH]

We love Hidden. But what does it mean? [Jason Solomons, Guardian]

Hidden (Michael Haneke, 2005) Liam O’Brian in Projectorheads in which there are short reviews of other Haneke films]

Caché (Hidden) A review by Michael Farman.

Review by Fred Thom in Plume Noir

Et Alors? Michael Haneke’s Hidden. A short review by Grahame Hobbs in MovieMail to accompany the advert for the Artifical Eye DVD.

Caché – A Film Review by James Berardinelli

Cache [Robert Ebert, 2006]

The Times names Haneke’s ‘Caché’ the decade’s best. [from In Contention film blog.]

Caché’ tries to dig into what lies beneath, but comes up empty [Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle]

….we’re expected to see this bad thing he did — for personal, not racial or political reasons — as the story of French colonialism (!) writ small.

Flashbacks [John Petrakis, Christian Century, 21 Feb 2006]

“Hidden/Cache” by Michael Haneke [Konstantinos Vassilaros]

Guilt, lies and videotape [Mark lawson, Guardian, 21 Jan. 2006]

Hidden Meanings in Haneke’s Mystery Lie Deeper than You Think [Tim Milfull, MC Reviews]

Hidden (Caché) [ Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat ]

Cache and the Post-Post-Modern Film – The Search For Authenticity [A blog post from politick]

Caché (Hidden) – Michael Haneke [Zettel]

A View to a Kill By Adam Nayman

The Tell-Tale Tapes? The Trouble with Caché Jeff Ignatius in Culture Snob

Cache/Hidden [Reynolds in We Like to Watch]

Long post and long comments stream.

Deep Cuts by Benjamin Ogrodnik, {2} Film International, Issue 37.

Para 1:

” Michael Haneke’s most explicitly political film, the French psychological thriller Caché (2005), is also his most self-reflexive, obsessed as it is with the social impact of media images on the real world. Throughout, the film exposes how narrative devices in the mass media advance specific political agendas and interpretations. While interrogating taken-for-granted storytelling elements of the film form in particular, Caché also critiques the media construction of racial identity, and addresses the larger issue of contemporary race relations in the Western world. As an allegory about the failure of Algerian assimilation into a multicultural melting pot of French identity, it highlights the ongoing tensions between the former colonialist White culture and the once-colonized ethnic culture of Algerians struggling to coexist in France. In all these was, Caché examines present-day neo-colonial racism and Eurocentric projections of the past, focussing on the media’s role in channeling and reinforcing hostilities that foreclose any possibility of moving beyond racial divisions.”

Ogrodnik’s argument focuses on George’s attitude to other races (hidden, but exposed by the pressures of believing he is being got at by one of them he used to know as a child…), and the shift in the audience’ s sympathy towards the immigrant characters. Majid’s son, to confuse matters, or to make them clearer (is it race not immigration? Or both?) is the second generation born in France.

The film doesn’t show George’s attitude to other classes in French society, except in so much as he and his friends are cloistered by class and success from them. The way the film is structured makes Georges isolated from all ordinary French people: he doesn’t go into a bar and order a drink, but buys a drink from a dispenser in a completely empty shop; the Laurents don’t even have a servant to whom they they might be shown relating. He may well, for all we know, be as unempathetic to the lower orders in general as he is to the immigrants. Does the way Haneke shows Georges’ response to a (hidden) threat mean this is how we are expected to assume all people of his type would respond similarly?

A point missed by commentators is that George’s parents were perhaps not what he has become. That is, although they were French Algerian’s and racists by default, France has since had the added effect of Le Pen’s Front National (interestingly he was an intelligence officer in Algeria 1n 1957, accused of torture). But it was 1961 and there weren’t so many Arab immigrants in those days – is it suggesting the racism has developed in the succeeding decades? The parents were prepared to go to Paris in 1961 to look for the missing parents of Majid – recent immigrants from Algeria – and think about adopting their child when it is discovered they have probably been killed during the FLN protests.

In talking to his elderly mother at the family home, George evokes no enthusiasm in her for the subject, which she sees as in the past. We are left wondering whether she really doesn’t care about Majid, or whether her guilt and shame prevents her from articulating any concern. She doesn’t even know who George is talking about at first, or so she tells him. Though she asks Georges what he is thinking – and he refuses to tell her much – we get the impression this is a sort of collusion. They have both forgotten or hidden in different ways. Georges, unlike his mother, has had cause to think (and dream) about his past because of something that has recently happened. But then George’s mother may have no memory of these past events, which contrasts nicely with his clear remembrance – necessary in order for him to feel shame or guilt.

In reality someone of Georges mother’s age would know very well how to relate the Magreb Arabs of the modern era living in France with the history of Algerian crisis of the 50s and 60s. The point is many of the whites were themselves pieds-noirs (French born in Algeria), or their descendants — people who lost their jobs, properties and businesses and fled Algeria as a result of the independence struggle and eventual formation of an Algeria free of colonial control — but were in their turn scorned by the indigenous French. Algerian and France went back over a century to 1830. The best place to find all the details is the definitive book: A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-62 by Alistair Horne [1977]. This was the book all the top people in the U.S. were reading in 2003, including Donald Rumsfeld. The consensus seems to be they thought this might be a manual for what to do with an Iraqi insurgency based on the French Army’s experience, but of course it’s a warning what not to do.

Even the most cursory research shows how there was a massive influx of over 1 million Pieds-noir back into France after Algerian independence in 1962. As the wiki on Pieds-noir says:

Upon arriving, they suffered ostracism from the Left for their perceived exploitation of native Muslims and for having caused the war, thus the political turmoil surrounding the collapse of the French Fourth Republic.[2] In popular culture, the community is often represented as feeling removed from French culture while longing for Algeria.[2][4] Thus, the recent history of the pieds-noirs has been imprinted with a theme of double alienation from both their native homeland and their adopted land.

and:

The Pied-Noir relationship with France and Algeria was marked by alienation. The settlers considered themselves French,[16] but many of the Pieds-Noirs had a tenuous connection to mainland France, which 28 percent of them had never visited. The settlers encompassed a range of socioeconomic strata, ranging from peasants to large landowners, the latter of whom were referred to as grand colons.[16][17]

In Algeria, the Muslims were not considered French and did not share the same political or economic benefits.[16] For example, the indigenous population did not own most of the settlements, farms, or businesses, although they numbered nearly 9 million (versus roughly one million Pieds-Noirs) at independence. Politically, the Muslim Algerians had no representation in the Algerian National Assembly and wielded limited influence in local governance.[18] To obtain citizenship, they were required to renounce their Muslim identity. Since this would constitute apostasy, only about 2,500 Muslims acquired citizenship before 1930.[17][18] The settlers’ politically and economically dominant position worsened relations between the two groups.

If one is able to take in all this extra-film detail, or know about it before watching it, it isn’t difficult to see how George’s lack of sympathy for Majid ties in well with the callous way the French decimated the Algerian population during their rule and in their attempt to stop the FLN. The loss of Algeria was seen as massive blow to French pride. Something like 200,000 French originally settled in Algeria. Paradoxically, when the descendants of these farmers needed to return to the mother country after Algerian independence, the French were not too keen on them, hence the term Pied-Noir.

It’s well worth reading the wiki entries on Algeria’s colonial past. Telling facts such as how much land the white settlers held compared to the Arabs add to the impact of the film. Probably best to watch the film first and then read the background for a second watching. Though of course it’s in French and most French will be fully aware of this stuff. At the bottom amongst the list of notable pied-noirs is Daniele Auteuil, perhaps more famous for his role in Jean de Florette, who takes the part of Georges.

Though Georges’ lack of concern for Majid – when he finally meets him again for the first time since childhood – might hint that this is the way these type of people think anyway about the Majids of the world, to me this makes it as much a specific problem Georges has, both in how he sees he has to maintain his middle-class position, respectability and influence and – exposed progressively in the film – in his revealed racial attitudes. The only problem is the sole point of reference to this rather to be forgotten past is the reference at the dinner party to FLN demonstrations in Paris in ’62. It does not open out into a recognition that the French killed about a million Arabs in the course of their colonisation of Algeria from 1830. It was a brutal colonisation and so there really was a lot to hide! I begin to wonder whether this process of hiding and not remembering is peculiarly French. That is to say, the German’s have a lot to feel guilty about but it covered roughly 1933-45, whereas the French had a couple of centuries to both absorb and deal with their past, which might explain how deep rooted the racism is. Haneke is an Austrian, so it is an outsiders view. What films are there made by French film-makers who deal with these issues?

The word scapegoating is not mentioned, but the audience is allowed to examine whether this might be a species of the genus, and so refer itself, during or after the film, to Great Scapegoats of Our Times.

Whereas Georges’ parents lived in the era of the last Algerian War – which led finally to independence after a struggle that began post-1945 – and might be expected to have anti-Algerian sentiments, as was common among the French at the time who were losing an important colony (and being inundated with large numbers of pied noirs as a result, which is another, though interesting story) – George was a very young child at the time. One suspects if he now has strong racist feelings, particularly about Magreb Arabs, for example, or maybe anyone from Africa, it is something he has learnt growing up in France in the intervening years: that many like him will feel threatened by the large immigrant population, and/or that is it being suggested that it is a spasm of his type: he has been conditioned to react like this, unthinkingly, because of his status and position in life. This is not certain: I would refer anyone thinking about this to the attitude of many French to the plight of French Jews at the time of Vichy. Though individuals did help individual Jews, there was no massive outcry about their transport to Germany. Indeed, the notorious Milice cooperated with the German authorities in rounding them up. This has been dramatised in many films depicting the period. Going beyond this there is the history of French far-right groups such as Action Française.

Sarkozy himself, as interior minister in 2005 when the race riots took place in many cities in France, called the rioting French youth racaille [wiki: 2005 civil unrest in France].

A woman resident of an estate hit by rioting asked Sarkozy:

Monsieur Sarkozy, est-ce que vous pouvez nous débarrasser de cette racaille? (Monsieur Sarkozy can you get rid of these racaille {2} {3} for us?)

His response was:

Vous voulez qu’on vous débarrasse de cette racaille, on va le faire. (You want us to get rid of these thugs? We’re on the case)

A snatch of TV footage of Sarkozy’s remarks are on YouTube.

In the wiki there is mention of:

….a common perception, especially among foreigners and descendants of the recent waves of immigration, that French society has long made a practice of hiding, or at least whitewashing, its numerous signs and symptoms of racism xenophobia and classism, by all accounts at least equal in intensity to those in other European countries [..].

The suggestion being that he has absorbed this way of thinking (and hiding it) from French society as a whole. He is provoked into exposing his real feelings. Society has had a slanted view of things presented to it by a biased and manipulative media (government should be implicated as well in its earlier control of  media): represented in the film both by Georges’ editing of his TV programme but also by mention of the 1961 Paris Massacre, which though known about at the time he utters the remarks, was not at the time it happened, because the media did not report it.

Haneke presents the killing of supporters of the FLN in ’61 as a brief description of what happened coming from the mouth of Georges himself, who is shown not showing any angst about it as he chats with the guests at his diner party. He is just relating a historical event.

The question is whether this sort of unthinking racism is particularly virulent in France in comparison with say Germany, Britain or the U.S. The film does not show any white working-class racial animosity. It shows the swimming instructors as being non-white, and the presumably all middle-class white children being allowed to be trained by them. It shows Georges waving amicably to an instructor. It shows mixed races coming out of the state school at the end of the film.

The danger, then, is the idea that the source of the racism is in the fear of the middle-classes. Presumably it then filters down to the working classes in the form of fear of loss of jobs and housing. Though the film shows an example of the subsidised state housing, HLM (habitation à loyer modéré), in the block in which Majid lives, it does not show whether these are all immigrant/non-white ghettos.

Haneke expects the intelligent viewer to tease out the racism per se from the concerns of the middle-classes for their own self- perpetuation/preservation. A key element of the film is the way that Georges goes about trying to shore up his status and power in the face of a perceived threat. He doesn’t suspect his cohorts but rather the lower orders. I thought, on watching the film again, that we were witnessing some sort of anomaly. Even if Georges had imbibed the hatred of (and/or indifference to) immigrants from his parents and society itself, he would surely be expected, as a highly intelligent man, to suspect he was being got at by someone in his family, or at work, or a member of the public who didn’t like his TV programme or in the media itself, before thinking it was an Algerian from his past. This particular Algerian, Majid, was born in France. He’s not just arrived in France. he may have worked and done his bit, but is now in hard times and showing the strain.

I am finding Ogrodnik’s analysis very useful as I explore Haneke’s Caché.

At several points he uses the word Anglo. I assumed this was interchangeable with Western at first:





Is he suggesting the French media are Anglo-orientated? That their modus/ethos is borrowed from the English-speaking media? The French themselves would not think so! Or does this mean a kind of default? That medias of this type (here French TV, as an example) by default use the manipulative and controlling ethos developed by and common in the English speaking media? (A debate about the way the BBC operates in comparison would be instructive…)

The French experience of course is with state controlled TV and radio as well as commercial. My thinking is along the lines of Haneke using the French media as a particularly bad example of bias/control, in that the 1961 Paris massacre of FLN supporters (and their mass detention using the same detention centres as the Vichy govt….Papon is mentioned in Cache: he was part of Vichy and the Algerian repressive apparatus, but also ended up a minster of Finance in a Barre and Giscard govt.), according to what I have been able to learn from the web, was just not reported in the press/media, so the public really didn’t know about it until it came out in the Papon trial in the late 90s. But this is state/media collusion. Can one say that this happens regularly in the US for example? Well, no, Nixon got found out. The Vietnam war was fully reported in all is gory detail, etc. and helped to end it. The same mistake was not made with the First and Second Gulf Wars.

I find it amusing that Mitterrand’s (once hidden…then revealed when it no longer mattered) daughter is an actor taking the part of a panelist on George’s TV book prog. And that Mitterrand himself had ‘hidden’ elements, which people are still not sure about. Very murky and uncertain. Was he a socialist doing undercover work in Vichy, or was he playing a double game?

Mitterrand when president is now know to have ordered the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour. But his direct involvement didn’t come out till much later. Perhaps the film should have been called Caché!

A subject that greatly interests me – though nothing directly to do with Haneke’s film – is Mitterrand the Jansenist. Though it is a long way from the immediate meanings and purposes of Haneke’s Caché, there is something in this Loyalist/Catholic thing, which Mitterrand seemed linked in some way to, that explains Petain and Vichy and might in turn suggest other underlying reasons for the racism in France.

For Caché to do the work it is meant to in creating a world of images and ideas stimulated by Haneke’s script, the audience has to be a pretty knowledgeable one. So George spelling out, admitting to his friends and wife at a diner party (after showing them one of the videos he hasn’t seen because it has just ‘arrived’) what happened in Nov. 1961 in Paris (Haneke has to make it a mini essay – albeit with no analysis from George or the guests – or no one would know what he meant…) would not strike up many emotional resonances in an American movie audience as it would in a French one. It doesn’t move Georges as he retells the story. And none of the diner guests, all media types, take it up, for example as being a stain on the honour or France. They prefer to listen to a shaggy dog story told by one of the guests. And (in my simplified words), what Haneke cleverly does is make his audience (here particularly the French one…) feel the desire to hide things as they watch the film, while at the same witnessing the extent to which a character lies and hides in order to uphold (as he sees it) his privileged middle-class identity!

Secrets, Lies & Videotape By Catherine Wheatley (BFI) In one scroll, but dealt with under headings. Roughly 3-4 pages equivalent.

Hidden in plain sight: Robin Wood on Michael Haneke’s Cache

originally in ArtForum, Jan, 2006.

Michael Haneke’s Caché By Florence Jacobowitz

Originally in CineAction, Winter, 2006.

p. 2 of 4:

‘Caché exposes the extent to which the bourgeois class safeguard the mythologies that empower and conceal its dark side.’

Then follows how Georges puts these into effect in his own life. An important sentence:

‘They have lost their ability to respond to life without the encumbrances of first having to protect their reputation and social position.’

There are many things in the film, many strands, personal, sociological and political, but this seems to be key to understanding it. We can examine various elements such as the meaning of the mention of the massacre of 1961, the heavy editing of his TV book programme, which parts of the film are remembered, imagined or dreamed, which are literal, which metaphorical or allegorical, but in the end these two phrases are the heart of the film.

An entry in Nationmaster has a suggestion at the end about the meaning of the final scene:

The question of who sent the tapes is open to interpretation. Majid and his son both deny involvement. There is a cryptic last scene (as the credits roll) of Pierrot and Majid’s son interacting in front of Pierrot’s school. Haneke has said in interviews that at first he included the sound of their dialogue, then he removed it. Another interpretation is that the tapes were shot by Haneke himself to confront Georges with his past. The foreshadowing of Majid’s suicide in the drawings delivered to Georges supports this interpretation.

Left Behinds blog has a post, New movies: Caché? What does it mean?, and a follow up post Update: Caché’s meaning, pretty much enters the territory I am, slowly. He includes a frame grab of Majid’s son and Pierrot that is almost the same as the one I snipped after watching it in the other day. I was looking for any contact and affability between the two, and here he gets that with son touching Pierrot with left hand, facing the camera.

The comment stream in the second post is long, with many suggestions.

A long analysis in Not Coming to a Theatre near You, starts with the TV studio shot, which it claims segues from the traditional, standard pull back shot at the end of studio programmes, but turns into a tracking shot that is Haneke’s camera rather than the studio camera, which ‘watches’ as Georges leaves the set to take call behind the scenery of the set. SEE still at head of post.

In the Artifical Eye DVD there is both an interview with Haneke and a short film on the making of the film, in which he talks as well. At one point he mentions having tried in the past to film dreams without success.

Nowhere to hide – Hari Kunzru assesses the films of Michael Haneke
(Guardian, 31 October 2009)

A Cache of Guilt : Michael Haneke turns his camera on the audience in his latest film, Caché. Noy Thrupkaew

Hidden Agenda Jason McBride

Monsters and Critics DVD Review (Frank Dees)

Girish blog post, Caché.

The French Lesson by Stephen Metcalf in Slate.

I have found myself unable to shake Caché. I am still poring over its studied ambiguities, arguing with its facile-fashionable politics, poking its dead zones, to see if it might yield even a modest smile, a drop of social hope. Life is short, and one function of a critic is to grant permission to ignore pretentious bullies like Haneke. In this instance, though, permission denied. Go see Caché.

Film blog post, Films I love #35: Cache (Michael Haneke), has a brief comment but here mostly for the set of clear 16 stills included.

Paul Arthur in a 2-page article, End Game, in the website of The Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Downcast Eyes: Michael Haneke and the Cinema of Intrusion by Asbjorn Gronstad, Nordicom Review 29, pp. 133-144 [pdf]

Ambivalence and Displacement in Michael Haneke’s Caché (Mary Caputi, Cal. State University) [12 pages]

Auteur de force: Michael Haneke’s “cinema of glaciation”. Roy Grundmann reviews DVDs od earlier films (originally in Cineaste).

Video discussion

1 hr. 25 min. YouTube video academic discussion of Caché, from the Philoctetes Center, with Roy Grundsman, Edward Nersessian, Brigitte Peucker, Brian Price and Garrett Stewart.

Profiles/Interviews with Haneke

Family Is Hell and So Is the World : Talking to Michael Haneke at Cannes 2005 (Bright Lights Film Journal)

The Unhappy World of Michael Haneke by Alan Riding [NYT]

De-icing the Emotions -Michael Haneke’s retrospective in London [Kinoeye]

Michael Haneke profile/filmography [at alt-flix]

Austrian Film Commission.

Senses of cinema – Michael Haneke – by Mattiad Frey – before Caché.

What do Algerians think of Caché?

I can’t find anything on the web in English. If you have read something in Arabic or French in an Algerian newspaper published in France or Algeria on the web, please let me know.

The nearest I could get was Why, French Algerians’ football celebrations turned into a battle, Andrew Hussey Observer, 22 November 2009, in which the film gets a mention because it came out in 2005 at roughly the same time as the 2005 riots.

If you are really into the background to the French and the Algerians, then Alistair Horne is your man. Details of his book below.

Meanwhile, here are some more political interpretations of Caché:

I came across this article in World Socialist Web Site (isn’t website meant to one word?): The Artist has not done the most difficult work, by David Walsh argues for a kind of false objectivity in Caché while also:

Haneke (born in 1942) often returns to the coldness of society. Speaking of Austria, he refers to “my country’s emotional glaciation.” An awful indifference and distance generally separate his characters. Intelligent but deliberately chilly, Haneke’s films have tended to register certain moods of the European middle class in recent decades—increasing paranoia and tension, a sense of being overwhelmed by events, perhaps xenophobia—without, however, shedding a great deal of light on them.

In the name of rejecting the facile approach of certain socially-conscious filmmakers of the past, directors such as Haneke (and he is one among many, particularly in Austria, Germany and France) evade the responsibility of adopting any strong or recognizable attitude toward contemporary society. In reality, this false objectivity, presented as ‘letting the audience think for itself,’ is a concession to a confused and stagnant political climate.

Walsh does a good job in showing the limits of Haneke’s ideas, calling him light-headed in connecting Georges the six year old’s treatment of the child Majid with ‘the legacy of French colonialism!’ I recommend you read this as an antidote if you have become fixated on the film.

So far no North African reviews to get another perspective. I’ll keep looking. If someone could point me to an Algerian film review, I would be eternally grateful.

This abstract from a The Empire Looks Back by Max Silverman in Screen, 2007, 48(2), 245-249, is the first piece I have read in my Cache odyssey, to bring in Fanon. Wonder if Haneke’s bookshelves holds The Wretched of the Earth. Would that explain the bloody drawings and the bloody throat slitting in Caché ?

To read this snip, open in another tab:

Eye Wide Shut: of politics in French cinema, and more specifically in Michael Haneke’s Hidden by a certain Nico, starts rather promisingly with “Hidden is both interesting and a rather bad movie”, later asserting: ” Hidden represents what it denounces and reaches a refined form of harmless critique, the kind that lets good middle class citizens laugh at their own situation and happily bask in it in the same movement. ”

Movies: revenge is a dish best served competently, a post on Caché from blog, And Now the Screaming Starts, bridges the gap between the personal and the political by positing Hanek 1 and Haneke 2.:

First there’s the genre-subverting, meticulous, unsentimental, and rigorous artist. This Haneke does all the work. Then, throughout his flicks and somewhat at random, a second Haneke – a ham-fisted, ingenuous, and simple-minded – drops in awkward political asides that are so egregiously thoughtless that many otherwise sympathetic and astute viewers assume that they’re being insulted.

More History/Sociology/Politics

A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne.  New York Review of Books paperback edition 2006, with new preface together with original preface of  1977 edition.

Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962)
1 page summary: mentions Sarkozy’s role as Minister of Interior in 2005 riots.

Essays in the SSRC website:

This is just one. The others are in the side panel on the left of the page in this essay:

Postcolonial Urban Apartheid Esaay by Paul A. Silverstein; Chantal Tetreault

….the French state’s self-congratulatory colonial “civilizing mission” turned post-colonial “integrating mission” which for the last fifty years has sought to transform the children of immigrants and other members of the suburban underclass into productive Frenchmen, all the while projecting them as suspect and potentially violent citizens.

Wiki: Paris Massacre of 1961
Check out the heading “the Massacre in popular culture – which mentions the first verse of Sticky Little Fingers’, “When The Stars Fall from The Sky”:

Mid-October, sixty one
The French Police were having fun
Cutting down Algerians
Breaking heads all over town
Yet no-one saw and no-one knew
No-one dared to speak the truth
200 dead became just two
Sweep them in the river
The witnesses were run to the ground
Put the bastards underground
Buried every black in town
Who dared to show their face

Mazarine Pingeot (the hidden daughter of Francois Mitterrand) – guest in George’s TV book programme. Mitterrand himself – where will this end? – was himself a bit of a hider of things such as his role in Vichy. Papon, of ’61 Massacre fame, was a Vichy functionary. But before that Papon was a Police chief in Algeria at the height of the Algerian War, who rose to become a Minister. If we can say anything, we can say that Hanke has read some stuff! He admitted to having seen the TV documentary on the ’61 massacre before making Caché.

SEE Maurice Papon, Vichy and Algeria, dissertation by Stepahie Hare-Cumming, L. Sch. of Economics.

Papon ended up as Budget Minister under Barre and Giscard d’Estaing and was buried with the Legion of Honour awarded by De Gaulle in July 1961, a few months before the Paris massacre.

To me the most fascinating ‘caché’ was Mitterand’s: how he started off under Petain (Vichysto-résistant?) and ended up as socialist president: was he a Vichyist who changed sides, or always a Free-French undercover agent. He was right wing before the war. As a functionary in the Vichy Government, he eventually turned against Vichy because of Prime Minister Lavel’s (started off a socialist and became right wing) decision to send French workers to Germany.

It is now known Mitterand, as president, ordered the sinking of Rainbow Warrior.

The great caché for France is its failure to come to terms with Vichy. From the list of additional meanings of caché: was it caché/enterré, or perhaps cache/difficile a trouver?

World Reactions to the 1961 Paris Pogrom by Daniel A Gordon, University of Susses Journal of Contemporary History, 1, (2000)

HLM ( habitation à loyer modéré) – wiki on subsidised housing in France.

BoBo [ Bourgeois Bohême ] – definition in Urban Dictionary. Georges Laurent uses the expression.

Policing Paris:Private Publics and Architectural Media in Michael Haneke’s Caché [Michael Gallagher, J. for Cultural research, Volume 12, Issue 1 January 2008, pp. 19-38)

There is a pay-for article. This is just a 7-line abstract, but the gist is there.

Secrets and revelations: Off-screen space in Michael Haneke’s cache [Libby Saxton, Studies in French Cinema, Vol 7 Number 1, 2007]. Summary and abstracts. Heavy academic tripe, but enough to tease out a few ideas.

“Cache is preoccupied, literally and metaphorically, with troubled, distorted or blinkered vision – with the mechanisms of secrecy, amnesia and denial that prevent us from taking responsibility for the past and facing the present clear-sightedly. The article argues that Haneke’s images produce meaning as much through what they conceal as through what they reveal, thereby exposing some of the blind spots that structure history, memory and spectatorship. “

” Defined by Jacques Aumont as `the collection of elements that, while not being included in the image itself, are nonetheless connected to that visible space in an imaginary fashion for the spectator’, off-screen space, or the hors-champ, is a permanent presence in cinema. It also remains one of the most enigmatic and persistently elusive of filmic sites. Michael Haneke’s critically acclaimed film Cache (2005) enlists both its protagonists and its viewers in a quest to make sense of off-screen space. Haneke’s camerawork, montage and mise-en-scene consistently accord priority to sites, events and entities which elude our gaze, yet which we nonetheless experience as irreducibly present, and which invest their visible counterparts with meaning. The film investigates the invisible dimensions not only of cinema, but also of digital video, surveillance footage and the mass media. Secrecy, concealment and blocked or obstructed vision emerge here as central formal and thematic preoccupations. Moreover, as Haneke explores the processes of repression, denial and amnesia involved”

” …..the growing suspicion that, in Cache, it is off-screen space which establishes on-screen space, rather than vice versa. For the contents of the frame is always already subject to the look of another – a look which cannot immediately be attributed to either director or spectator. This enigmatic look is at once the origin and the blind spot of the narrative. The plot turns on a series of attempts to uncover the identity and motives of a hidden presence who observes, films and even, in a certain sense, directs the action from beyond the frame. Cache opens with a prolonged, unbroken, static shot of the facade of a house filmed from a vantage point somewhere in the pointedly named rue des Iris in the thirteenth arrondissement of Paris. The scene appears, at first, deceptively normal and tranquil; early morning birdsong and the hum of distant traffic are interrupted only by the passage of the odd pedestrian, cyclist or car. But as the minutes slip by, the image, still unchanged, gradually begins to appear more suspect. Ostensibly devoid of narratively significant action, the scene’s inertia and banality start to unsettle the audience. After a while, the image ceases to hold our attention, which wanders instead – confirming Burch’s observations about the centrifugal force of the `champ vide’ – towards off-screen space, as we wonder who else, besides us, might be looking, and why. This, we begin to realize, is not a conventional establishing shot; the longer “

” The stasis of the camera and image and the deferral of a counter-shot or alternative perspective prevent us from making sense of the space outside the frame. Eventually, nearly two-and-a-half minutes into the film, disembodied voices intrude on the soundtrack discussing an as yet unidentified object that was left in a porch in a plastic bag. Haneke then cuts briefly to a shot of a man and a woman leaving the house, and we watch the man peer in puzzlement up the Rue des Iris in the now failing light. As we return to the initial shot, horizontal tracking marks appear on the surface of the image, as if someone has pressed the fast-forward button on a remote control. These visual and aural clues arouse suspicions that are subsequently confirmed by a medium shot of the couple back inside the house in front of a television screen, remote control in hand. The protracted opening sequence is thus retrospectively identified as an excerpt from a videotape sent anonymously to a family whose home appears to be under surveillance. What we at first read as a long shot turns out instead to have been a close-up of the screen on which Georges and Anne Laurent are viewing the tape. Finally regaining our bearings, we realize that we are inside the house we are viewing from the outside. We thus share, at least temporarily, the confusion and disorientation of a couple we encounter in the uncanny situation of watching themselves being watched. What is more, from the very outset of the film, we find ourselves already implicated, as spectators, in an economy of voyeurism and surveillance. “




November 25, 2009 Posted by | Algeria, Algerian War, Caché, film reflexivity, film techniques, film within film, FLN Riots Paris 1962, Haneke, Michael Haneke, photography, pied nnoire | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Film : The Battle for Algiers vs. La Guerre d’Algérie



The Battle of Algiers in 13 parts [ in YouTube ].

vs.

La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

La Bataille d’Alger (3 parts) by Yves Boisset
2007 French TV programme interviewing many of the main characters on both sides. {1}

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Algérie Française!  Algérie Française!

“Vive le l’Algérie Française!”

Our headmaster was a tad eccentric to be declaiming this from the stage in the gym to a group of 11 year olds, but it was part of our weekly Current Affairs lesson. He read out news from the day’s newspaper, taking the parts of the main characters, and filled us in on the facts. Looking back, this was impressive and enlightnened teaching.

An actor once came to give us a performance of his interpretation of Charles Dicken’s one-man shows, beard and all. The gusto of our Head’s De Gaulle performance was not dissimilar. He threw himself into it completely, including French accent.  He was de Gaulle: he even looked like De Gaulle: tall, though with undersized suit,  jacket buttoned to bursting, trouser bottoms half way up his socks. He came back later (this was from 1958-62) in other current affairs lessons to explain how de Gaulle had ‘changed his mind’ about Algerian independence. (We learn now that he wanted shot of Algeria from the beginning…and was hoodwinking everbody)

There was a certain frisson for me over Algeria that the other kids probably didn’t have: I left a turbulent Iraq in July 1958 as a 10 year old.

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I should have watched The Battle of Algiers decades ago. Reminded of it in Infinite Thought’s Philosophy, Film & Literature course summary, I wanted to see it now I am beginning to examine the documentary/fiction divide in the process of learning to make my own flics.

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Battaglia di Algeri, La (1966) IMdb

Gillo Pontecorvo: The Battle of Algiers

Succint Derek Malcom (2000) review.

A screenplay of The Battle of Algiers by Franco Solinas  (which looks kosher, i.e. it has more than dialogue), from Movie-Page.com, which has a compendious collection of script/screenplays. N.B. each  script is marked as HTML or pdf.  Mostly Hollywood but an occasional surprise, e.g. a script dated as Stockholm May 31, 1957, of Wild Strawberries. I’ve not seen it in it’s entirely and am going to try a little experiment – read the screenplay before watching the film.

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Ennio Morriccone’s music from the film:

Ennio Morricone documentary – Part 3
A brief interview with Pontecorvo.

“The Battle of Algiers”.

“Ali’s Theme”

I am intrigued by the film’s documentary style and the use of this music.

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Coming to The Battle of Algiers forearmed and forewarned – filmically,  historically, politically – I was not quite as impressed with it overall as I thought I was going to be, disappointed by the lack of a deeper context ( yes, it was a war of independence but  someone might have mentioned de Gaulle, or did I miss that?) and finding instead a narrow focus, with few three-dimensional characters, leaving out much of the complicated politico-historical details. Of course a script is a script and has its limitations.  So often you can watch a hyped-up Hollywood movie and conclude,  despite it being a well-told story, it is thin gruel.

In The Battle of Algiers, Sartre – having written about the Algerian war – was mentioned  by a  subordinate to Colonel Mathieu, in charge of the counter-insurgency strategy, who responds: “Why are the liberals always on the other side?”.  From Mathieu’s mouth the telling remark that he was in the French resistance.( He is made to say: “There are 80,000 Arabs in the Kasbah. Are they all against us? We know they’re not. In reality, it’s only a small minority that dominates with terror and violence. This minority is our adversary and we must isolate and destroy it.” )  He  mentions the paras, which he heads in Algiers, fought (and lost) in Indo-China. In other words we have learnt and don’t intend to lose here. And they don’t, systematically destroying the cells of the FLN in Algiers. But the greater war is lost, which the film doesn’t really describe directly or in any detail. It is suggested by the revolt starting up again after 2 years and the final scene of rioting on the streets of Algiers. One of the things missing is the revolt of the colonists  a few years before and their barricades.

To get an idea of what went on in Algeria as whole,  view in YouTube a 1972 doumentary on the war, La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

Even if your French is not to hot, the moving images tell the story pretty well. One of the things the  images show is that this was the era before the media were controlled. Watching this, reminds of the Vietnam reporting. Then came the Falkands!  There was no footage like this in the Iraq wars of 1992 or 2003.

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wiki: The Battle of Algiers links to historical info. from this point to many other wikis such as on Algeria and de Gaulle.

Mention in wiki: The Battle of Algiers, under heading screenplay, that the film tends to take a neutral position, though various previous scripts had tried slanting it differently.

It was released in 1965/6, so people watching it then knew about Algeria. For someone watching now, nearly half a century later, the lack of context in the film (such as the tumult in France at the time, de Gaulle coming to power in the middle of the war, the OAS,  and so one) is significant.

The Battle of Algiers and Its Lessons

by Sheila K. Johnson

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The wider political events is missing from The Battle of Algiers.  France was deeply divided over Algeria, even over their attitude to the pied-noire.  Though there was general support for them during the war, public opinion turned against them afterwards. {wiki: Charles De Gaulle}.

Algeria was not considered a colony but three départements. Nearly a million pied-noires resettled in mainland France after Algeria won its independence. {wiki: Pied-Noir}

25,000 pied-noire/military were killed in the war as a whole, set against 1 million Algerians. 1 Million Algerians fled the country during the war, most returning at independence in 1962.

According to wiki:Algeria the European population in 1962 was 15.2 % of the total. Although this is contradicted in wiki: Algerian war, with: ” In 1959, the pieds-noirs numbered 1,025,000 (85% of European descent, and 15% of Sephardi Jewish descent), and accounted for 10.4% of the total population of Algeria. ” Something that seems significant is the urban/rural demographic of Algeria at the time. There were roughly equal numbers of colonists to Arabs in the main cities.

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Occupation case studies: Algeria and Turkey
By K Gajendra Singh

The author was an Indian diplomat who served in Algeria in 1964. The details of the Algerian war are there.

There is a substantial  wiki: Algerian War from which many links.

This YouTube

La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

is in French.  Here is an opportunity to compare a documentary-style fiction film with a detailed documentary based on media footage. Note how France retains control over Saharan oil.

This extract from French Cinema and the Algerian War: Fifty Years Later: Decades later, the savage conflict and its political and human repercussions are at last being seriously examined by French filmmakers

says:

..a montage of materials taken from French and foreign news programs of the period, organized chronologically, which told the story of the war as seen by the press (cinematic or otherwise) between 1954 and 1968. In other words, the “news” from Algeria since, officially speaking, there was no war in Algeria. While the military correspondent of Le Monde, Jean Planchais, wrote a long and sympathetic review of the film entitled “The Algerian War Rediscovered,” he nevertheless reproached the filmmakers for producing a mere montage rather than the political tract that could have been expected of them. Months later, Freddy Buache, writing for the Swiss daily La Tribune de Lausanne, accused the authors of having preferred “a sort of photo album of an exceptionally atrocious war” to serious political analysis.

It goes on to describe other films on the Algerian War (documentary and fiction) made since and the changing attitudes of the French to discussing it.

This YouTube titled  Interview Pier-Noire – 14 Juillet 1962 – Oran is an extract from an ina.fr documentary, which interviews an elderly pied-noir (I was born here. My mother was born here….) who at the time of interview was declaring his intention to stay in Algeria, that he he lived amongst Arab Algerians without difficulty. I wonder what happened to him and others like him who wanted to stay.

De Gaulle and Algeria

On 4 June 1958, de Gaulle declared to a huge French crowd in Algiers, “I have understood you !” even as he announced root and branch reforms. In Mostaganem, he was subsequently heard (though only once) to shout “Vive l’Algérie… Française ! (Long live French Algeria !)”
Behind these resounding phrases, however, de Gaulle presented a more complex face to the skilled observer. In October 1958, in Constantine, his cry was “Vive l’Algérie et vive la France ! (Long live Algeria and long live France !)” and he invited the FLN to “bury the hatchet” with France. Clearer still, in 1959 he confided to a reporter that “the Algeria of our fathers’ days is dead and, if we cannot understand that, we will die along with her”.

“Je vous ai compris” short video clip of De Gaulle in June 4 1958 telling the French Algerians that “I have understood you.”  He is seen in the same shot in one of the later episodes of  La Guerre d’Algérie 1/20 (1972)

“Torture en Algerie Francaise”:  a short extract  interviewing men who had served in Algeria during the war.

The Algerian War in Paris

Lawrence Bohme ( Sorbonne [1961-63]; UNESCO translator, [1981-85]. )

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Film, Play, Power and the Computational, or Byting Celluloid February 2006

Daniel Coffeen

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other:

wiki: Gillo Pontecorvo

History of Algeria short summar with specific headings, e.g., Nationalism and reaction 1945-1958/The FLN Years 1962-1992

Learning From the Real Battle of Algiers

Robert J Avrech

Not strictly about film (he’s angling to use it to illustrate Arabs are undemocratic, what the Algeria can tell America about Iraq, etc., and how Israel is a pussy cat by comparison in it’s response to the Palestinians) but there are a few bits of info such as the mention of influence Franz Fanon on Pontecorvo at the time of the making of the film.

…the film is a work of leftist propaganda, beautifully crafted, to be sure, but a film that seeks to justify Islamic terror by proposing that the French were so brutal that the Algerians had no choice but to resort to unrestrained terror.

….The Palestinians are lucky people.

Because their enemies are Jews.

I’d put it another way: the Palestinians are unlucky because they haven’t got their own country.

Battle of Algiers by Kevin Beary  in LewRockwell.com

Written in June 2003.  Primarily about the film. Few mentions of parallels with US in Iraq.

Although nearly forty years have passed since its creation, Battle of Algiers is more timely than ever – especially for Americans, given the American involvement in a contemporary colonial war in the Middle East.

Profile of director Pontecorvo. That the impetus from the film had come from FLN leader Jacef Saadi,  who ended up play the part of FLN commander Kader.
The big picture – Battle of Algiers

An 1996 article from Socialist Review by Martin Smith

De Gaulle – a Lesser Evil? by Shane Mage
A 1960  view from the left  in Internationalist Socialist Review

The Battle of Algiers

Peter Bradshaw on the 2007 re-release of the film:

…torture scenes are laid out in montage for us without any self-conscious emotional affect or drama.

….without any of the internal humanising or dramatising conflict that would be considered vital now: they do indeed look almost like a military training film. Another sort of director, possessed of a more conventional liberal scruple, might have felt the need to show a torturer’s inner pain or the torturee’s hidden backstory. But Pontecorvo shows them in terms of strategy.

Omar Odeh in Bright Lights Film Journal also reviews the new DVD

The blog International law and Films has a considerable post on The Battle of Algiers.

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A guillotine was used in the film to dispatch an Algerian. The question entering my mind was, Were they still using it in France at the same time? Didn’t find the answer, but found  The Executioner’ Tale,  a 2002 Guardian article by Hugh Schofield, which  gives a figure for numbers of Arabs guillotined (200). Were any pied-noirs (perhaps a real-life Meursault or twos?)  likewise dispatched (for common-or-garden murder, par example) ?

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Who was Lt. Colonel mathieu based on?

Marcel Bigeard

There ia link in the references to Film: French Lesson by Steve Sailer which mentions Bigeard.

No Time for Soldiers Time magazine 18 August 1958




January 13, 2009 Posted by | Algeria, Algerian War, film [its techniques], Gillo Pontecorvo | , , | Leave a comment