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Funny Games (DVD)

Funny Games DVD (click for larger image)Reviewed by Nomad

Starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart

Directed by Michael Haneke

Distributed by Warner Home Video


Recently, there has been a rash of films released where you enter into it knowing the bulk of what happens. The suspense is supposed to come from how things go down. We trust the director to set a pace, be that fast and frantic or slow and brooding, to lock us into our seats for the duration. Overall, if we aren’t locked in and caring about the lives of our heroes within the first 15 minutes, there is little hoping that will change. Funny Games is a film plagued with this malady.

First off, I am not rich, so it is hard for me to pity rich people right off the bat. I don’t understand the odd things they do like leaving houses unlocked and entertaining strangers even if they met them for two seconds. Secondly, the first character on the victims’ side of things that we really get to know comes off as a bit of a bitch, which certainly doesn’t help to garner sympathy from us when the proverbial shit hits the fan. I’ll sum up with one last problem for me. When you don’t like the good guys, you are left with the bad, and in Funny Games our two villains are so ridiculously unappealing, obnoxious and boring that I would have liked to leave the movie altogether. To add to their obnoxiousness, one baddie periodically breaks the fourth wall like some sadistic Zack Morris in a very bloody episode of “Saved By The Bell“. I don’t even like them talking to their victims … why would I want them talking to me?!

Funny Games DVD (click for larger image)Funny Games is a slow roll down a gravel driveway. Sure, any number of things can pop out of the bushes, and the sound of the tires rolling over each rock is different, but that’s not enough to make me want to watch this car roll for an hour, much less almost two. Funny Games also gets very artistic at times, so now picture the sound of the car rolling but the camera is pointed at a tree nearby…for 10 minutes. The next shot is a close-up of the car door. The next, hands on the steering wheel. I’ve got nothing against art house films, but in this movie it seems an awkward fit. I will mention that all the acting in this film is top notch; it’s just that you won’t care. You believe Watts and Roth are genuinely upset by every humiliation and painful experience they endure, but it doesn’t amount to peril. It seems as much as I could believe that they were upset, I never bought that they were in danger, or I didn’t care. Whichever the case, it makes the entire movie hard to sit through as that is the whole damn movie.

We are allowed one blistering nail-biting chase scene when a little boy breaks free from his captors, but then we are seemingly punished for it with an excruciating scene (and I shit you not) of a woman getting herself up off the floor for what seemed like an eternity. Honestly, If I didn’t have to review it, I would have quit right there. Funny Games is a thoroughly boring exercise in bringing artistic film school camera angles to an overly glossy “horror” film. Good for them; not good for you.

As for extras, you get the privilege of being able to watch this film in widescreen or fullscreen. YAY! That’s all there is. I’ll assume whoever put the disk together thought you’d already endured enough torture yourself. Game over.

Special Features

  • Widescreen and Fullscreen! Woo hoo!

    Film
    “>“>
    2 out of 5

    Extras
    “>
    0 out of 5

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    Nomad

    • rjschwarz

      One thing I liked about Funny Games…

      And I hope it was intentional but I can’t be sure. He used a tripod instead of a shaky came, and because of that we had a few shots that mirrored classic slasher scenerios. A wounded guy leaning up against the window, with the tripod he’s off center in the frame leaving the window open, just waiting for a slasher to appear and make us jump. Or the woman fixing the phone, with large double-door cabinets behind her. Again she moves to the side of the frame and the cupboards are there, waiting to fling open and expose a hiding body and/or slasher.

      There were other cases. In both cases the impression I got was that he was taking horror expectations for those that have seen a lot, and using them for tension. Of course there was no payoff. THe whole movie lacked a payoff.

      Oh, and the DVD cover (or whatever that image is) with the golf club and gloved hands is far better than the crying Naomi cover.

    • Jerel Of The Dead

      Everyone who hates this movie fails to realize that it breaks the 4th wall.

    • Tsotha-lanti

      removed

    • Tristan Sinns

      >>”First off, I am not rich, so it is hard for me to pity rich people right off the bat.”

      Why would you have to be rich in order to feel any empathy for wealthy people who are being tortured to death? It’s not about money; it’s simple humanity.

      I can understand not feeling connected to the characters to the point that you have an overtly negative reaction when they suffer, I just don’t think whether they have money or not should have anything to do with it.

      • Messiahman

        Actually, Nomad’s onto something here. The point of the film (indeed, the ONLY point of the film that’s jackhammered into your head ad nauseum) is that you’re not supposed to feel empathy for the characters in jeopardy… and then you’re supposed to feel bad about that.

        Oooh, audience complicity! How terribly deep and illuminating!

        Yawn.

        • Tristan Sinns

          >>”The point of the film…is that you’re not supposed to feel empathy for the characters in jeopardy”

          I don’t think that is the point of the film at all. The film is a critique of cinema violence. It is a trap, and I think it requires at least a bit of empathy for the trap to work. I was lucky to be able to attend a round table interview with Naomi Watts, and this is how she summed the film up:

          Q: Funny Games seems, in some way, to pass judgment on people who pay to see gratuitous gore; do you think there’s a chance that these people might be turned off by this film? Or at least question the perverse things in cinema?

          NW: I do. I haven’t seen those films, but I know about them. I think, yeah, Michael is trying to invite that audience and say, “Come, come, come! I’m talking to you!” He tricks them. Funny Games, that’s the irony of it all. That audience is such a mass audience, and I suppose he does feel that they are culpable, and again trying to build awareness of what he feels violence is. By depicting it in a very authentic way, it becomes very grotesque and brutal, even though he never actually gives it to you. He does in that one isolated moment and then he says, no, you can’t have it, though I know you want it. So, yeah, those people may feel very angry, but I think that’s the point of the film.

          Source: http://www.dreadcentral.com/interviews/watts-naomi-funny-games

          • Messiahman

            Actually, I’d say it’s very much the point, in that Haneke’s goal from the outset is to invite the viewer to empathize with the killers, and to subsequently punish the viewer for it. The film isn’t a critique of cinema violence itself — it’s a critique of those who enjoy it for sadism’s sake. And a one-note, simpleminded critique at that (for further dissection, see my rather lengthy comment below). It’s also a rather transparent slam on the bourgeois, which is prevalent in all of Haneke’s films — in both the original and the remake, he seems to be saying that through their affluence alone, they somewhat deserve what happens to them.

            Again, this is film school pretension at its most basic level. Shoving a theme down our throat only works if your film is remotely interesting.

            FUNNY GAMES isn’t. It’s a one-note, one-trick pony.

            • Tristan Sinns

              >>”in that Haneke’s goal from the outset is to invite the viewer to empathize with the killers, and to subsequently punish the viewer for it.”

              Er, no. There is no attempt to make people feel empathy for the killers; rather they are *confronted* by the killers.

              For a movie that’s supposedly so simple that it is a “one trick pony”, it seems you can’t quite nail down the point of it. ;D

              >>”It’s also a rather transparent slam on the bourgeois, which is prevalent in all of Haneke’s films”

              You’re really reaching here. How is this film even a slam on the middle class? I’m middle class, love material things, and didn’t feel “slammed” at all. Or, since “all” of his films have this theme, how is Cache a slam against the middle class?

              >>”he seems to be saying that through their affluence alone, they somewhat deserve what happens to them.”

              Nope. He’s saying that because *you* are watching, they get what happens to them. If you don’t watch the movie, it doesn’t happen!

            • Messiahman

              “Er, no. There is no attempt to make people feel empathy for the killers; rather they are *confronted* by the killers.”

              Er, you’re wrong. The killers are the obvious point of reference and the clear point of entry into the story (what little there is of it) for the audience, given the cavalier winks and breaking of the fourth wall that explicitly addresses the viewer (“you want a proper ending, don’t youy?”). The plainness of the message renders moot your denials. Hell, Haneke himself has discussed this in detail, so maybe you’ll just have to take it up with him.

              “You’re really reaching here. How is this film even a slam on the middle class? I’m middle class, love material things, and didn’t feel “slammed” at all. Or, since “all” of his films have this theme, how is Cache a slam against the middle class”

              Are you kidding? CACHE’s primary theme is that of bourgeois complacency being penetrated and shattered by strange invaders (i.e. mysterious videotapes) leading to the surfacing of buried guilt. Pretty obvious, dude. And again, this is the sort of stuff that “Egghead” Haneke rails about in interviews. Guess you weren’t paying very close attention, huh?

              “Nope. He’s saying that because *you* are watching, they get what happens to them. If you don’t watch the movie, it doesn’t happen!”

              Uhm, helloooo… I already summed this up much better in two words above — audience complicity. If you’re interested in real debate, it might help your case if you didn’t just parrot back what I already said, only much less succinctly. If you’re going to make shallow jokes about me missing the point, you’d be better served not repeating my points back to me and then attributing them to yourself — you’re only winning my argument for me.

              The attack on the bourgeois is secondary, but it’s clearly there, and it’s a running (and frankly annoying) current through all of his work (and even the most cursory look will tell you that I’m far and away not the only one to come to this conclusion). If you’d like, we can launch into a discussion of where and when this recurrent theme comes up in each of his films, all of which I’ve seen – have you?

              Wow, for a filmmaker that you embrace so wholeheartedly, I seem to have a much clearer understanding of his work than you. Perhaps you should watch his films again before continuing this discussion. 😀

      • Nomad

        Ok I’ll specify. It’s not rich people. I know some rich people and I’d be sad if they died in any way. It’s a certain type of rich person that lets a stranger into their home…incredibly polite but not meaning any of it…looking at you like you should thank them for the privledge. I get this from both sides of the coin…the victim and the killer, and I don’t like either of them. That is the essential flaw here for me. If I don’t like anyone in the movie, why should I care if one lives and one dies? I also don’t enjoy just watching people be tortured. The pretension here is that current movies achieve this, right? We are talking about torture porn? Even those so named movies aren’t JUST people died up on a couch having to listen to these fuckwads think they are smart and periodically being hurt by them. Immensely boring. The real torture is having to watch the movie.

    • Terminal

      Funny Games US is definitely sneaking on to my top 10 of 2008.

      No seriously.

      I love this movie.

    • kiddcapone

      Fucking garbage. That about sums it up.

      Kiddcapone – “Breaking the 4th wall since 1974”

    • Hunter1006

      I’m going to track down a copy of the original “Funny Games” instead of buying this one. The remake was great to me, but I much prefer the ’98 (or was it ’97?) original.

    • Sirand

      Sorry, but Funny Games still kicks some Strangers ass.

      • Uncle Creepy

        And TCM: The Beginning was “good”. 😉

        • Rottenjesus

          and The Hitcher remake was “better than the original”. 😉

        • Sirand

          And Tamara will “tear your throat out.”

          • Uncle Creepy

            Yeah, she will in the same world that TCM: The Beginning is considered to be “a bit of a movie miracle.” Honestly … A MOVIE MIRACLE!?! That kind of negates whatever praise I gave to Tamara right there, no?

            We’ve both liked stinkers. Funny Games is one of yours. 😉

            • Terminal

              Ooh, it’s getting hot in here.

            • Sirand

              “We’ve both liked stinkers. Funny Games is one of yours.”

              Maybe that would be true if Funny Games were considered a stinker, but the general consensus is that it’s great. Nothing to apologize for liking this one. Haneke isn’t renowned for nothing.

            • Messiahman

              Bullshit, man. In the miniscule cult circles in which he’s known, Haneke is just as reviled as he is renowned, and a quick check of reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes shows that there’s a near even split between positive and negative when it comes to reviews on both the original and the U.S. FUNNY GAMES – that’s hardly a general consensus. And honestly, the “general consensus” argument should never be used to back an opinion, unless you’re proudly proclaiming to be following a flock of sheep. That’s like saying you smoke cigarettes because everyone else is doing it. Why not discuss the movie itself and your opinion on it, rather than what other people think of it? Are you that insecure in your own opinion?

              Me, I find Haneke’s pretentious sub-film school experiments to be the epitome of elitist tedium. They’re not provocative; rather, they’re snooty and obvious. And his “observations” are all the more trite in that, like most mindless snobs, he’s blissfully aware of his own artistic hypocrisy.

              Y’know, it’s funny how you wrote off Larry Fessenden a while back for being mired in film school pretensions, yet you embrace Haneke, whose work is so much more snobby and condescending. Unlike Haneke, Fessenden doesn’t make it clear that he feels himself above either his characters or his audience. Fessenden’s films are compelling and full to the brim with ideas; Haneke’s are grating and are all focused around the *same* idea (a collapsed narrative giving way to a sermonizing lecture). Like so many of the faux-intelligentsia, Haneke’s not one tenth as profound as he clearly believes himself to be.

              And for the record, I get what the film attempts to to; that is, being violent movie that tries to make the audience feel bad for liking violent movies, that questions the sensibility of those who watch sadism for thrills. Wow. That’s fucking *it.* Whoopie. Those of us with functioning cerebellums all figured this out for ourselves about the time LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was released – and even then, Craven’s film was a far more provocative and disturbing (and frankly superior, due to playing it straight) vision than Haneke’s. FUNNY GAMES is a film with only a single repetitive thought in its head, and it’s made all the more hysterically dull by the fact that Haneke keeps trying to shove it down our throat with a false illusion of profundity.

              Sorry, but I’ll join the on the other half of the general consensus that feels that the movie is patronizing arthouse garbage of the worst order. I got enough redundant one-note lectures back in film school, thank you very much.

            • Tsotha-lanti

              Messiahman, what’s your opinion on “Videodrome” as compared to Mr. Haneke’s movies? Having seen “Videodrome” but not any of Haneke’s stuff I get the impression from reviews etc. that Haneke hasn’t tried to say anything that Cronenberg didn’t already say back in 1983.

            • Messiahman

              Precisely, but Cronenberg’s themes don’t completely overpower his films — they work on multiple levels of entertainment and illumination. Haneke’s films are condescending sermons that speak of a man very impressed with himself, in spite of the fact that he lacks even the most rudimentary understanding of narrative.

              Ultimately, they’re dull, surface-level ruminations with delusions of profundity.

              Move along, nothing new to see here.

            • Tsotha-lanti

              Now that I think about it, isn’t Michael Haneke basically a real-life version of Barry Convex? 😀 I mean, just like Barry Convex created the Videodrome Signal in order to kill people he sees as morally deficient (under the reasoning that such people watch things like the snuff porn seen early in “Videodrome”), so is “Funny Games” meant as an attack upon horror fans because Haneke views horror fans as morally deficient sadists.

              This actually makes Haneke the “anti-Cronenberg”, though, so my comparison was a bit off the mark… it’s more like the two directors use the same subject matter but in polar opposite ways than Haneke repeating what Cronenberg already said. 😉

              By the way, I won’t say Haneke doesn’t understand narrative. The interviews with him I’ve read suggest that he does very much does so and deliberately violates common rules of narrative in quite the same way as Picasso violated rules of perspective or noise rock bands violate traditional ideas about music.

            • Messiahman

              It’s not merely an attack on horror fans; it’s an attack on anyone who enjoys violent entertainment made by a man with absolute contempt for his audience. And that’s it. Provocative and compelling? No. Lame and pretentious, yes.

              As for his understanding of narrative, that whole “I know the rules, but I’m clever enough to break them” argument might work is the devices he used weren’t hoary cliches (a la breaking the fourth wall) delivered in the most clunky fashion. There’s such a thing as understanding narrative enough to play with it and subvert expectations, but there’s also such a thing as being creatively bereft and writing off this artistic void as art (known in music as System of a Down syndrome 😉 In Haneke’s films, there’s no *there* there.

            • Tristan Sinns

              >>”I get what the film attempts to to; that is, being violent movie that tries to make the audience feel bad for liking violent movies, that questions the sensibility of those who watch sadism for thrills.”

              I’m not sure if that is the point, either. I do not think Haneke is condemning violent films. Rather, he is asking people to question their reliance upon nice and neat cathartic violence in film, when in reality violence is rarely anything of the sort.

              >>”Those of us with functioning cerebellums all figured this out for ourselves about the time LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was released”

              The Last House on the Left is an extremely bad example of something that “did this first” simply because it did not; Last House on the Left had a very satisfying and cathartic ending in which revenge was thoroughly and utterly ravaged upon the “bad guys” for the audience to cheer on. The Last House on the Left not only didn’t make this comment first, it actually serves as a prime example of the sort of film that Funny Games is commenting upon.

            • Messiahman

              “I’m not sure if that is the point, either. I do not think Haneke is condemning violent films. Rather, he is asking people to question their reliance upon nice and neat cathartic violence in film, when in reality violence is rarely anything of the sort.”

              Tristan, I love ya, man, but you have this rather odd habit of disagreeing with me, and then mildly rewording what I just said and repeating it back to me as if it’s your own unique thought. That’s a really strange way of arguing, and it may be the first time I’ve ever come across someone who restates *my* opinions in a failed effort to attack them. Fucking weird, man. Seriously, I just explicitly stated that Haneke was questioning the sensibilities of the audiences watching these films, not condemning violent films themselves — and then you parroted it right back at me (albeit much more verbosely) seemingly oblivious that I beat you to it (just as I’ve beaten you by a mile to everything else discussed on Haneke’s shallow output thus far). Dude, it’s not like it’s a difficult theme to decipher — indeed, it’s so friggin’ OBVIOUS that Haneke’s condescension toward his audience is made all the more apparent in that he hammers it in over and over again. That’s the ONLY thing he’s got in his bag of tricks. And that, my friend, is the stuff of shitty film school experiments.

              As for LAST HOUSE, I didn’t say anything about it “doing this first,” just that it does it both more effectively and more subversively. The “cathartic” violence at the end of Craven’s film is anything but satisfying, and while yes, I understand that these sorts of films were Haneke’s supposed targets, the most interesting wrinkle is that Craven’s film, while playing it straight, is far more effective at doing what Haneke *thinks* he’s doing, only without the eggheaded pretensions. Craven’s a damned intelligent guy… and he doesn’t patronize his audience. Which means he’s got one up on Haneke right out of the gate.

              This irony is obviously lost on the condescending Haneke. And on quite a few of his admirers as well, it seems.

              Now do me the favor of composing your own original argument for a change, rather than categorically denying everything I just wrote mere moments before you plagiarize my ideas for your retort. Really, if I want to argue with myself, there’s no need to log onto the internet. ;-D

            • Sirand

              I never use the general consensus arguement, but Creepy’s statement that we’re guilty of liking “stinkers” doesn’t apply here. This isn’t some guilty pleasure like a Tamara or TCM: The Beginning and no one should get shit for liking it. It’s like giving shit to someone for liking Eraserhead because it didn’t gell with you. Both versions of Funny Games have been recognized by critics, film scholars, and bestowed with numerous awards. I’m not using that as an excuse for my own opinion, but merely to point out that this film is regarded for working on more levels than a mere “bad movie”.

              And Last House on the Left? Seriously? If anything, Funny Games is deconstructing movies like that. It’s not being condescending or snooty about it…it’s playing a subversive game with the people who expect it to play by the same old thrill/catharsis formula we see in every single one of these films.

            • Messiahman

              “It’s not being condescending or snooty about it.”

              Dude, based on the hilarity of this statement, you’re either delusional or you should be writing comedy. By it’s *very nature,* the film is condescending and snooty. Newsflash: thumbing your nose at the audience, having a character break the fourth wall and chastise viewers for wanting a proper ending, and making statements like “those who `need’ to see it will see it and those who don’t will never go” is the very definition of snobby condescension. The film is a patronizing lecture given by a man who is on record as considering himself above his audience. There’s really no arguing that he’s being condescending fuck. It’s right there in both his statements and the film itself.

              And as for the “general consensus” rule, I’ll take you one further — the general consensus is that almost no one has heard of Micheal Haneke, and his films are bombs, because virtually no one is going to see them. Yes, he’s won a teensy handful of festival awards and a few critics have celebrated him, but he’s unknown and uncared for by the vast majority (the general consensus, as it were) of filmgoers the world over. And judging by the piss-poor performance of the FUNNY GAMES remake (and the well-deserved critical drubbing it took) that won’t be changing any time soon.

              Renowned? Not remotely.

    • Rottenjesus

      You should have rated it 2 out of 5 broken walls instead. 😉

      • Uncle Creepy

        BRILLIANT! LOL