Films: The Piano Teacher

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  • Friday, November 04, 8:45 PM
    Starz FilmCenter

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The Piano Teacher  {La pianiste}

The Piano Teacher
La pianiste

Austria, 2001, 131 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: France, Germany
Genre/Subjects: Classic, Drama, Romance
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
Language: French, German English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Michael Haneke
Producer: Veit Heiduschka
Editor: Nadine Muse, Monika Willi
Screenwriter: Michael Haneke
Cinematographer: Christian Berger
Principal Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Annie Girardot

A decade after it won the grand prize at Cannes in 2001, Michael Haneke's harrowing study of a sexually repressed music professor and the 17-year-old student she draws into a firestorm of mutual obsession continues to haunt audiences around the world. The reputations of Schumann and Schubert, the composers teacher and pupil both favor when they sit down at the keyboard, may not have recovered yet.

Erika Kohut (frighteningly portrayed by the great French actress Isabelle Huppert) is a living, panting catalog of psychological disorders: a sadomasochistic voyeuse with a taste for violence, Erika's got a domineering mother (Annie Girardot) at home and an absent father locked away in an asylum. When handsome young Walter Klemmer (Benoit Magimel) happens her way, the music at the Vienna conservatory where Erika holds forth must grow dark and dangerous—with a little help from the boy himself. The famous scene in which Walter acts upon his teacher's fantasies of abuse and rape remains one of the most unsettling eruptions of violence in the history of film. For that matter, the moment when Erika drops broken glass into the pockets of a pretty piano student she imagines as a rival for Walter's attention is pretty disturbing too.

Three years after The Piano Teacher was released, Austrian novelist Elfriede Jelinek, from whose novel Die Klavierspielerin the film was adapted, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But if film buffs know Jelinek at all, it's likely for her contribution to the Michael Haneke classic that so terrifyingly explores the bonds between sex and power, art and life, obsession and madness.
—BILL GALLO

Homage to Donald Krim (1946–2011)
Founder of Kino International

Introduced by Gary Palmucci

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