Erika Kohut is a pianist, teaching music. Schubert and Schumann are her forte, but she's not quite at concert level. She's approaching middle age, living with her mother who is domineering then submissive; Erika is a victim then combative. With her students she is severe. She visits a sex shop to watch DVDs; she walks a drive-in theater to stare at couples having sex. Walter is a self-assured student with some musical talent; he auditions for her class and is forthright in his attraction to her. She responds coldly then demands he let her lead. Next she changes the game with a letter, inviting him into her fantasies. How will he respond; how does sex have power over our other faculties?Written by
The R-rated edition from Kino makes a number of changes and omissions, removing the shots of the hardcore peep booth footage viewed by Huppert's character in the mall, as well as optically pixellating pornographic images on magazine covers in the sex shop. In addition, this version completely removes the following two sequences:
-Huppert's cutting sequence in the bathtub
-Magimel taking Huppert to the ground and humping her at the hockey rink.
In the latter case, the film awkwardly fades out and in again in quick succession, to elide the missing footage. See more »
I saw this film at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival. La Pianiste reinforces the "Austrians=grim" thesis I'm formulating. Isabelle Huppert won a well-deserved Best Actress award at Cannes for her portrayal of a woman who, in her efforts to attain the artistic ideal, loses her humanity. Trapped by her talent, she suppresses her emotions and her sexuality until they can only be expressed in twisted and terrifying ways. When a younger student falls in love with her, our hopes rise, but are soon dashed by the realization that she cannot experience love the way others can. It is too late for her, and the film's final 30 harrowing minutes are, tellingly, devoid of the beautiful music that carried the first 90 minutes. The message seems to be that the music itself is not enough without the life and beauty it's describing.
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