An intensely moving, bittersweet feature as an ageing couple face the onset of infirm dementia following Anne’s (Emmanuelle Riva – Hiroshima My Love, Three Colours: Blue) stroke.

Cultured and sophisticated, ensconsced in their large and comfortable Paris apartment, Anne and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant – The Conformist, Three Colours: Red) look to live out the end of their days after 50+ years of marriage. But the stroke and gradual physical and mental decline challenges their bond of love.

Writer/director Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Hidden: Caché) delivers an emotional, compassionate tour-de-force, unflinching in its presentation of the slow decline towards death. Essentially a two-hander (Isabelle Huppert – Elle, The Piano Teacher, London-based, is an occasional visitor), Amour is breathtaking in its power and emotional punch.

Nominated for 5 Oscars in 2013 including best film, director, actress and original screenplay, won 1 for best foreign language film.

Rating: 92%

‘The Counterfeiters’

Based loosely on true events (Operation Bernhard), The Counterfeiters, written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Inheritors, Deadfall), reveals plans by the Third Reich to swamp the Allies with counterfeit sterling and dollars.

Renowned Berlin counterfeiter, Salomon ‘Sally’ Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics – A Hidden Life, The King’s Choice), is arrested and interned in Sachsenhausen. Under the camp command of Sturmbannführer Friedrich Herzog (Devid Striesow – Downfall, Three), a team headed by Sally is forced to produce counterfeit currency. Housed in relative comfort apart from the rest of the death camp, the men balance their own survival with that of prolonging the war. Complicit and survive or stall and die.

Claustrophobic in its telling, chilling in its exploration, The Counterfeiters looks to the moral conundrum as master printer and former Auschwitz inmate Adolf Burger (August Diehl – Inglorious Basterds, A Hidden Life) clashes with Sally. It’s all a little too clean and sanitised to be fully effective but the Oscar winning feature remains a powerful exploration of adaptation and survival.

Winner of the 2008 Oscar for best foreign language film.

Rating: 77%

‘Brothers of the Night’

An intimate, revealing documentary as young male Bulgarian Roma congregate in Vienna to work. Some send money home to their wives, others look to save money to pay a dowry. But the work is not what they expected.

Director Patric Chiha (Si c’était de l’amour, Domaine) is given extraordinary access to (mainly) macho men not much older than boys working as sex workers, selling their bodies to wealthy clients. Heavily stylised (reminiscent of Fassbinder’s Querelle), Brothers of the Night is more passing performance of a drama than documentary. Ambiguous friendships, detailed (scripted?) conversations, romanticised perspective with little of the threat and danger part and parcel of such a lifestyle, Chiha avoids commentary or judgement. He presents ‘as is’. And whilst the boundaries between fact and fiction may be blurred, Brothers of the Night is a quiet, insightful look into a supportive community of migrants looking to survive.

Rating: 66%

‘The Piano Teacher’

Challenging and intense, The Piano Teacher, written and directed by the award-winning Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, Amour) is a deeply profound exploration of sexual represssion.

Living at home with her domineering mother, 40 year-old piano teacher Erika Kohut (Isabelle Huppert – Elle, Amour) is lonely and emotionally at sea. Lauded in her profession at the music academy as a take-no-nonsense educator, she is both victim and aggressor in the imbalanced relationship with her mother (Annie Girardot – Rocco & His Brothers, Cache – Hidden). But for a woman who watches hard-core pornography at sex shops, the ultimate challenge is provided by the handsome, overly confident new student, Walter Klemmer (Benoît Magimel – Les voleurs, Little White Lies).

Provocative in its telling, The Piano Teacher is no easy watch as Erika’s obsessive behaviour is both confronting and clinical. The three central characters are excellent in a film that can only be described as a polarising experience.

Rating: 64%

‘Happy End’

Happy End PosterA French haute-bourgeois family, Calais-based, live their lives, a microcosm of the minutiae of everyday events.

Octogenarian Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant – Amour, My Night With Maud) heads the family but he has passed the trucking business onto his daughter – Isabelle Huppert (Elle, The Piano Teacher). Into a family of adults living in the large rambling house enters 12 year-old Eve, daughter of Huppert’s brother from his first marriage.

Detached and icily controlled, director Michael Haneke’s (Amour, The White Ribbon) latest is a bourgeois, insidious soap opera as each quietly look for their own ‘happy end’.

Rating: 59%