Happy End (2017) | Cannes Film Festival | In Competition

May 22nd, 2017
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Michael Haneke | Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-louis Trintignant, Toby Jones, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin Drama | 110min

HAPPY END is Michael Haneke’s satirical exploration of a rich family of industrialists whose dysfunctional daily lives become linked to the turbulent ongoing immigration nightmare that is Calais, thanks to the son and putative heir of the family building business.

This year’s Cannes Competition line-up is fraught with startling dramas and the intriguingly entitled HAPPY END joins the list with its impeccable production values, sophisticated interiors and top-drawer performances from a starry ensemble cast, including veteran Louis Trintignant and, of course, Isabelle Huppert.

This is a typical Haneke film: all his classics themes coalesce in a slow-burning treat, at times a tad too much so. These include family guilt, shame, revenge where social media and onscreen messaging enlightens the narrative adding to a gritty subtext behind the beautifully manicured domestic scenes. In one involving an impromptu moment musicale for the scion’s 85th birthday (Trintignant as Georges Laurent), the musician, a chelloist, is conducting a covert porn exchange with Thomas Laurent – revealed only to ourselves scrolling down on his onscreen messenger).

Isabelle Huppert plays Anne Laurent, the doyenne of the family’s Belle Epoque villa  (with Moroccan staff) who has recently taken over the construction business from her ageing father Georges, who is stumbling on the foothills of dementia. Recently engaged to Toby Jones’ English lawyer, tasked with handling a UK deal involving the business, her son son Pierre is a non-starter prone to drunken outbursts, and her brother Thomas (Kassovitz) has a new wife and baby and a smart little daughter (Harduin) from a previous marriage (and has broken into his computer and sussed his game). So far, so dysfunctional. Meanwhile, we are treated to glimpses of the migrant crisis on the streets of the city.

This is a malevolent movie that wears its unsettling undercurrent discretely hidden under its haute couture outerwear, and as in all Haneke’s fare, we know that the ending will be far from happy. MT


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