While Michael Haneke’s latest torture mechanism, Code Unknown, is less invasive than Funny Games, it’s certainly not as fun to watch. Call it what you will (71 Fragments of a Chronology of How to Cause a Scene or 32 Short Films About French Bastards), Code Unknown relentlessly avoids classification. This sliced and diced curio (think Manchevski’s Before the Rain as directed by Godard) tackles entirely too much to ever really be about anything. Character trajectories are fascinatingly linked via one of Haneke’s many moral long takes though Unknown calls entirely too much attention to itself as self-reflexive cinema. Anne (Juliette Binoche), an actress, bumps into Jean (Alexandre Hamidi), the younger brother of her photographer boyfriend, on a Paris street. Jean, looking to run away from his beet-eating father, throws a paper bag into the lap of a Romanian beggar woman, angering the humanitarian Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke). While you may scream “xenophobia” when French cops dog Amadou instead of Jean, there isn’t much available to explain why an oversexed Arab youth spits on a Anne’s face during a subway-ride. Anne is cast in a film where she’s trapped in a soundproof room by a killer, a scenario expertly contrasted with Anne’s notion that the child that lives next door might be the victim of abuse. The actress causes a scene at a local supermarket when she yells out to her boyfriend that she might have gotten an abortion while he was away in Kosovo. Haneke’s consumer society is a banal one, the perfect backdrop for Anne’s fiendish Meg Ryan outburst. Code Unknown certainly intrigues though it’s too irritating and tedious to put its fragments together. Then again, Binoche gets spat on, which is far more interesting than seeing her hawk chocolate morsels.
- Leisure Time Features
- 117 min
- Michael Haneke
- Michael Haneke
- Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Sepp Bierbichler, Alexandre Hamidi, Ona Lu Yenke, Luminița Gheorghiu
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