I spent about an hour yesterday reading the online debates about Funny Games, a 1997 movie by Austrian director Michael Haneke. The director just made a shot-for-shot American remake starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, and it's coming to the Roxy this Friday.
So, why do I care? This movie has sparked some serious debate. It's an ultra-realistic depiction of one family being terrorized by a pair of young psychopaths. It doesn't observe any of the usual conventions and taboos that govern such movies in the U.S. (think Cape Fear or Fatal Attraction). But the director claims, somewhat bombastically, that he does have something to say about why movie-goers -- especially Americans -- enjoy violence on film. Hence the American remake after all these years. And based on viewing a DVD of the original last night (thanks Waterfront!), I see his point.
Somehow I doubt many people will see this movie in the U.S. But for a fascinating debate, in which it gets called everything from a masterpiece to a snuff film, check out the Internet Movie Database page for the original film or the Onion AV Club interview with Naomi Watts . There's also Anthony Lane's long but generally negative review in The New Yorker.
I wouldn't recommend this movie to anyone who couldn't stomach the home-invasion sequence in A Clockwork Orange. But there's nothing like a controversial flick to heat up a dull March season. This week also sees the release of the latest from Brit director Neil Marshall, Doomsday. Marshall made one of my favorite horror films (The Descent ) -- which, in its original U.K. version, shares a disturbing characteristic with Funny Games. I'll leave it to horror nerds to figure out what that is.