Movie Review: Caché (2005)

My sister rented the movie Caché, of which the title means “hidden”. Before I start this review, I find it important to learn my visitors, or remind them, of a few important points:

First of all, my favorite movies are not always Hollywood blockbusters. I have watched and enjoyed several movies that have not been made in the United States, including several slow paced one. I enjoy several movies without a lot of actions. I liked, for example, Songs From The Second Floor, which is a very slow-paced movie that doesn’t really have a plot.

Secondly, I do not have a serious lack in cinematographic knowledge. I am currently studying cinema in university and have watched several movies that are considered as pioneers or major productions in the history of cinema. Including silents.

Thirdly, and most important, I will give you a small literature lesson. Writing—or telling orally—stories dates from a very long time ago. Just think of the Greeks, with authors like Homer or Euripides, whom were certainly not the first folks to think “Hey, let’s tell stories!” Anyway, the very basis of any story is that there is one entity, which will most often be human or have anthropomorphic characteristics, that has a purpose. Said purpose can be as simple as “living my own life without anything important coming in my way”. For a story to actually take place, there must be an entity that opposes this purpose, consciously or not. The entity can be a force of nature like the wind or rain, a human or other animal, a God, etc.

While surfing the IMDB, which is overflown with poor-quality critics and judgments, I read yet another reference to “American” cinema. I will however say “Hollywood(ian) cinema” for two reasons: 1) it allows me to avoid using the word “American” to speak of something limited to the USA and 2) it is more true, since not all movies that are made in the USA fit what people usually mistakenly refer to as “American movies”. David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino make movies in the USA, after all. Anyway, the comment said that people didn’t like the ending (or lack of) of Caché because they (or we) are used to Hollywood movies where the ending is clearly understandable and everything settles back. Now this constitutes a serious mistake. The methods employed to tell a story in movies isn’t entirely unique: it pulls several concepts from a much older tradition, that of literature and, even before, oral story telling. Way before the aforementioned Greeks, there were people who created myths. These myths already followed the basic structure of what we could call “classical narration”. At the beginning, there is an initial situation. “Entities” (let’s say characters) are inside a certain context. Then there comes an event that breaks this situation and often causes disorder. In order to bring order back, characters must commit a series of actions, each with consequences creating a new situation, that will lead to one final event (usually an action from the characters) which will bring a new stable situation. Said situation is not necessarily identical to the situation at the beginning and is not necessarily positive for the side which we could refer to as “good”.

This babbling leads me to say that claiming that the return to a stable situation is a characteristic that comes primarily from Hollywoodian cinema is complete ignorance. Disliking Caché is not. So on to the real topic.

Here beings the actual review. This movie is advertised as a thriller and actually does have the potential to become one. It starts with a couple who discovers a tape on which their house is filmed from the outside for a couple of hours. Throughout the movie, they will receive more of such tapes, usually wrapped in a sheet on which is what I will call a childish gore drawing.

The problem is thus not with the start. There is actually more than one problem. First of all, the rhythm is deeply painful. I can hear people say “but life can be very slow at times”. Yes, indeed, but I would expect that if I was going through one such thing as the characters, I would be a bit stressed and time wouldn’t stretch endlessly like two-inch thick cheese on a pizza. The movie is filled with endless shoots or shoots that are far too long without a reason. The director has been compared with Hitchcock by some people. I did a paper on Hitchcock recently (on which I got a good mark, thank you) and I remember very well that in an interview he said (translated into my own words) that to him rhythm is not necessarily showing 40 shoots a minute, but cutting when the shoot no longer has anything to say. This movie doesn’t seem to get it.

Then, there is the ending. I watched it on the TV that belongs to my sister (or her boyfriend, I don’t know), which is 19 inches and of a rather poor quality. So, no, I didn’t see the two bloody guys talking somewhere in the overloaded, wide angle. And even if I had, I would still be deeply frustrated. That’s not a bloody ending. You have set a story that has a certain suspense, that revolves entirely (or almost) around the idea of the tapes, who is making them and why. Not replying to any of these questions is extremely frustrating to the viewers. I know that some movies actually have as a purpose to frustrate visitors but in this case the message simply didn’t go through, neither for me, nor my sister, nor her boyfriend, and I believe we all have similar backgrounds in cinema watching.

Finally, the general feeling of the movie is snobish. Yes, snobish. Pseudo-intellectual stuff. Let’s make something that doesn’t really make sense and call it art. Or use random words from one of the characters’ quotes in order to pretend the movie makes sense (like “guilt”). I didn’t feel guilt in any of the characters. I felt anger only. I couldn’t understand their motivations. According to some people, Pierrot seems to be the one who sent the cassettes. Yes, alright, but why would he do it?

In brief, we have a poorly developed screenplay, that could have turned out great, characters we can’t understand well and an awfully slow pace. It’s not the slowness or the lack of ending or whatever that makes me hate this movie so much, it’s the combination of the three elements, that leads to complete frustration. There is nothing to compensate for some of the major lacks, because these three quintessential elements are treated awfully.

So, if you want a pleasant French movie, watch Je ne suis pas là pour être aimé (I am not here to be loved), which I also watched tonight.

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