Funny [1989]

Michael Haneke is a modern master, which his spellbinding films Cache and The Piano Teacher proved to an international audience. When it came time for a Hollywood remake of his ultra-disturbing 1997 picture Funny Games, who better than Haneke himself to helm the new version? And indeed, the second Funny Games bears the impeccable sense of control and technique that the Austrian version had: it is a horrifyingly precise account of a family terrorized by two psychopathic young thugs at a vacation home. For anyone who's already seen the '97 film, this new one--a nearly shot-by-shot transcription of the original--will seem superfluous, no matter how impressive the performances of Naomi Watts and Tim Roth are. (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet are suitably creepy as their menacers, too.) For newbies, the movie might be as infuriating and thought-provoking as Haneke intends it to be. That's because Funny Games is an intellectual game itself, a direct rebuke to the audience that gobbles up gratuitous violence and cynical manipulation. Haneke sets up our expectations, and then refuses to provide the conventional catharsis… or the conventional anything. All of this was pretty bracing in the first go-round, but feels like gamesmanship in the remake. Even if you dig what Haneke's up to, this is a brutal movie-watching experience. --Robert Horton

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