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Michael H. Profession: Director (2013)

Yves Montmayeur/2013 Tribeca Film Festival

“Michael H. Profession: Director” documents the working methods of every cinephile’s favorite Austrian sadomasochist provocateur, Michael Haneke, at arguably the peak of a long-lauded career. One of the very first scenes in the film treats us to Mr. Haneke playing out that now-famous nightmare scene in “Amour.” It’s a breathtaking moment, seeing him standing in for Jean-Louis Trintignant in what was likely a blocking rehearsal which was then remade shot-for-shot for the actual film. In the ensuing interview, he commented that although his films aren’t autobiographical, his personal experiences do inform them.

The film reveals what you probably already suspect about Mr. Haneke: He is a control freak who believes filmmaking requires the same sort of artistic discipline and meticulous precision as does musicianship. In a very telling scene in which the interviewer asked some inept junket-type questions, Mr. Haneke first attempted to steer the conversation by refusing to answer them, then proceeded to answer them anyway perhaps in fear of being misinterpreted. He must have shuddered at the thought of relinquishing control over a documentary about him to another filmmaker: in this case Yves Montmayeur.

Of course, the film also provides some unexpected insight on Mr. Haneke. For instance, he is really an endearing guy. During a scene that took place at his master class at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, he expressed the desire to help his students figure out who they are and what they want. We get a glimpse of how Mr. Haneke is unfailingly thoughtful in every way. (Aspiring filmmakers probably want to take up German A.S.A.P. so they can enroll.)

It’s only a matter of time before frequent collaborator Isabelle Huppert shows up to very articulately serve as character witness and provide some much needed perspective on Mr. Haneke’s artistry. But that perspective is in short supply as most of the film is little more than an assemblage of electronic press kits and DVD bonus features — which is not to say it’s boring, but you have to be really into his movies to get something out of it.


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