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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • French DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with Michael Haneke
  • New interview with actor Isabelle Huppert
  • Selected-scene commentary from 2002 featuring Isabelle Huppert
  • Behind-the-scenes footage of a postsync session for the film featuring Michael Haneke and Isabelle Huppert
  • Trailer
  • An essay by scholar Moira Weigel

The Piano Teacher

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Michael Haneke
2001 | 130 Minutes | Licensor: MK2

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #894
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 26, 2017
Review Date: September 28, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

Academy Award–winning Austrian director Michael Haneke shifted his focus from the social to the psychological for this riveting study of female sexuality and the dynamics of control, an adaptation of a controversial 1983 novel by Elfriede Jelinek. Haneke finds his match in Isabelle Huppert, who delivers an icy but quietly seething performance as Erika, a middle-aged piano professor at a Viennese conservatory who lives with her mother, in a claustrophobically codependent relationship. Severely repressed, she satisfies her masochistic urges only voyeuristically until she meets Walter (Benoît Magimel), a young student whose desire for Erika leads to a destructive infatuation that upsets the careful equilibrium of her life. A critical breakthrough for Haneke, The Piano Teacher—which won the Grand Prix as well as dual acting awards for its stars at Cannes—is a formalist masterwork that remains a shocking sensation.


PICTURE

Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher makes its way into the Criterion Collection with a new Blu-ray edition, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This high-definition digital restoration was scanned from the 35mm original negative. It is presented here in 1080p/24hz.

The final image is nice, but pretty much what I was expecting. It’s a “newer” film so I didn’t expect any source damage and I don’t recall any marks or blemishes of note ever popping up. I found there to be a slight trailing effect with some quicker motions but the image is stable and clean otherwise, and is free of fluctuations and pulsing. The digital presentation delivers the sharp details effortlessly, close-ups looking pretty crisp and grain looking pretty good if a little coarse in a few low-lit shots. Black levels can come off a little crushed in places but otherwise they’re fine. The film’s colour scheme isn’t all that dynamic, with a bland, cold, almost “beige-y” look but saturation levels look excellent. It didn’t blow me away but it’s a nice looking image in the end.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film receives a 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround track. It’s not showy by any means but is subtly effective. It’s best at delivering ambient sounds like street noise outside and in the acoustics of some of the interior scenes, specifically the ones involving music. Direction is nice, bass is supportive and not showy, and the track is clean and clear with superb fidelity.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Criterion includes some great material on here but unfortunately limit the academic angle, which would have been a benefit I feel. There is a 30-minute interview with director Michael Haneke, where he talks extensively about the production, from how he came across the original novel to casting to shooting and then to the theatrical release. He also talks about the film’s characters and their development, as well as offering praise for Huppert and his joy in finally being able to work with her (he mentions how he had tried to cast her previously in other films on to have the actor turn him down or not be available). He also talks a little bit about the controversies around the film and how the film made him more of a name in international cinema.

Accompanying that are a couple of interviews with Isabelle Huppert. A new 11-minute interview recorded for Criterion features Huppert talking a little about her enjoyment in working with Haneke while also sharing her thoughts on her character, a role she still holds highly. Accompanying that interview is then a 50-minute select-scene audio commentary featuring Huppert and recorded in 2001. This one is particularly great as she gets into more detail about her character and how Haneke constructed scenes, finding what he wanted as they filmed scenes. While she does share some technical details about the film’s shoot I most enjoyed when she would talk about what she felt her character was going through in a few sequences, along with the details about her grimace in the final sequence of the film.

To expand on how Huppert and Haneke worked together we next get 19-minutes’ worth of footage from a post-synch session. The sessions cover a line of dialogue off screen that was missed during shooting and then what I guess you could call an “adjustment” to Huppert’s cries in a later sequence in the film. Huppert and the director discuss in a staggering amount of detail how a specific line should be delivered, chiefly how one word should be emphasized, and then see as the two work out how immediate Huppert’s cries should be in that later scene. This feature proves to be oddly fascinating thanks to the dynamic between the two and it is probably the best feature on here.

The disc then closes with the film’s theatrical trailer and then the included insert features an essay on the film (with comparisons to the novel) and Haneke’s aesthetic by writer Moria Weigel, offering the release’s only academic slant.

Despite the lack of much else from that point of view I still rather enjoyed Haneke’s and Huppert’s input on the film and their working relationship with one another. All of the material is still fascinating to go through.

7/10

CLOSING

The supplements may leave a bit to be desired but I still enjoyed going through what we have been given here and found the presentation to be a solid one.


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