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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CACHE' (HIDDEN) -- movie review by porfle

(NOTE: This review originally appeared online at in 2006.  Contains spoilers.)

Watching CACHE' (HIDDEN) (2005) is like reading a really intriguing mystery thriller and then discovering that not only has the author deliberately left out the last chapter, but it was never really a mystery thriller after all, silly. 

For most of the film's running time, director Michael Haneke (THE PIANO TEACHER) leads us to believe that we're watching a mystery that will eventually be resolved, but the joke's on us because it turns out to be a sociopolitical shaggy dog story--Haneke wants to comment on past mistreatment of Algerians by the French in particular, and racism in general--and our reward for sitting through it to a staggeringly inconclusive ending is a nagging puzzlement over its meaning.  Not about racism--that's bad, I get it--but about what the heck happens at the end of this story about a French family of three who suddenly start receiving anonymous videotapes that look like surveillance videos of their daily lives.

It seems the man of the family, Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil), has a dirty secret.  When he was a little boy, an Algerian family worked for his family, and when the parents were killed during a protest in which French police massacred many Algerian immigrants, Georges' parents decided to adopt their orphaned son, little Majid.  But Georges was jealous, so he told his parents bad things about Majid, and Majid was sent away. 

So now the Laurent family is getting these videotapes, and one of them shows an apartment house in another part of town.  A street sign is visible on the tape, and the video ends at the front door of a flat and reveals the apartment number.  Georges goes there and finds that the grown-up Majid (Maurice Bénichou) is living there.  But he claims not to have sent the tapes, and we believe him, although Georges warns him to desist.  Shortly thereafter, the Laurents receive another videotape of this conversation between Georges and Majid, taken by a hidden camera within Majid's apartment.

Later, the Laurents' son Pierrot disappears, and the parents have a fit, calling the police and having them roust Majid and his son and take them to jail.  But it turns out that Pierrot went to a friend's house to spend the night and neglected to tell his parents (or so he claims).  When his mother Anne (the wonderful Juliette Binoche, who played Catherine to Ralph Fiennes' Heathcliff in 1992's WUTHERING HEIGHTS) confronts him about this, he counters by accusing her of having an affair with a family friend, Pierre (Daniel Duval).  Is Pierrot involved in the making of the mysterious videotapes?  Does he want to prove to his mother that she is under his watchful eye?

Up until the point at which one of the characters does something truly and shockingly unexpected, I really thought I was watching one corker of a mystery.  All that was missing was the ending, but since CACHE' was so engaging until then, I was pretty certain that I was in for a dramatic revelation before the end credits, one that would cleverly explain everything and leave me with the satisfaction that comes from watching a good movie.  After all, nobody makes a mystery flick with a build-up like this and then just lets it come to a dead end, do they? 

But, as it turns out, we weren't supposed to expect a traditional "ending" after all--in fact, it was rather unsophisticated of us to do so.  Instead, we're supposed to think, "Oh, look at all these wonderful social and psychological loose ends for us to ponder.  Here is a truly unique filmmaker at work."  And the end is not only open, it's gaping.

The final shot is another surveillance-like view of Pierrot's school letting out. (Is it real, or is it another videotape?)  Kids come through the doors and hang around on the front steps, waiting to be picked up by their parents.  They stand there talking.  They wander around.  This is the point where, if something's going to happen, it has to happen now.  And then--the credits begin to roll. 

I rewound a few times to make sure I hadn't missed some vital piece of information that would make sense of everything.  Sure enough, if you look closely at the lower left side of the screen, and you've got pretty sharp vision, you'll recognize two of the people amidst the crowd talking with each other.  But this raises more questions than it answers, and if you're watching it in a theater and don't happen to notice it the first time, you're out of luck. 

CACHE' has won several awards and been critically acclaimed. 

Buy it at


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