(2005) *** 1/2 R
117 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Michael Haneke. Cast: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Annie Girardot, Maurice Bénichou, Bernard Le Coq.

Is it live or Memorex? Michael Haneke's Caché ("Hidden") begins in roughly the same way David Lynch's Lost Highway does: with an uneasy married couple plagued by a series of strange videotapes left on their doorstep. As they sift for clues of their unknown emotional terrorist, Georges and Anne (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) become more wary of each other, and slowly, perhaps methodically, the tapes bring a hidden secret to light.

Before Austrian writer-director Haneke won the Best Director Prize (for Caché) at this year's Cannes, Americans knew him for The Piano Teacher, if they knew him at all. With Caché, the provocateur dredges up the hurtful history between the French and the Algerians, represented by a childhood war between Georges and the Algerian boy with whom Georges once shared a home. Even on this point, explored in nightmarish flashbacks, Haneke cultivates ambiguity—was the tension racial or the result of primal, jealous boyhood cruelty?

Like France, Georges may be responsible for depriving Algerian youth of prosperity. The adult Georges is equally selfish and/or racially insensitive, ignoring world events (playing out on the TV behind him) and the growing pains of his adolescent son (Lester Makedonsky) to obsess over the implicitly threatening tapes, soon supplemented by postcards with bloody pictures. Meanwhile, Georges clings to his happily uneventful facade (the set of his TV chat show is a fake-looking version of his own living room, lined with books and videotapes), and the increasingly alienated Anne futilely reaches out for truth or, at least, support.

While multiple "whodunnit" interpretations are possible (and several are equally valid and equally unverifiable), the most obvious intent of Haneke is to "hide" within his film a "supernatural" thriller--in which Georges is being stalked by his own conscience. As in Lost Highway, the tapes seem to be willed into existence by Georges' own guilty subconscious.

If true, this interpretation would render all of the "whodunnit" speculation as paranoid and prejudicial (regarding the other characters) as Georges' behavior in the film. Who doesn't have a tendency to jump to conclusions, and to deny one's own "shadows"? In a voyeuristic indictment worthy of Hitchcock, Haneke often surprises the viewer—positioned in the same deductive, observational role as Georges—by turning the presumably subjective filmic frame into the videotape Georges and Anne are watching.

Little is more unsettling than perception itself turning unfaithful. Haneke's exploration of willful ignorance, guilt, and history takes hold, and doesn't quite let go when the lights come up.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround

Street date: 6/27/2006

Distributor: Sony Home Entertainment

Aside from a fine hi-def transfer, Sony's disc of Caché offers two terrific bonus features. The first is the illuminating "Caché: Interview with Michael Haneke by Serge Toubiana" (25:26). Haneke sheds light on what is and is not intended to be ambiguous in the film, and explains his philosophical approach to cinematic storytelling.

Making-of doc "face Caché" ("Hidden Side") (31:50) is unusually frank and revealing about process, depicting the needs of actors (sometimes self-aware and sometimes not) and a temporary cinematographic failure that sets off a perhaps justified directorial tirade. Here's an opportunity to see Haneke directing a few scenes (the doc cheekily starts with its camera trained on the two cameras shooting the film's first scene); comments by "unequivocal pessimist" Haneke, Auteuil, Binoche, and producer Margareth Menegoz add to the fascination.

Trailers include The White Countess, Breakfast on Pluto, Friends With Money, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Joyeux Noël, Don't Come Knocking, Capote, Why We Fight, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School, and Cirque Du Soleil: Lovesick. One of the best films of 2005 is coming home in a great special edition—if you missed Caché in theatres, don't repeat your mistake.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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