The French film "Amour" has already racked up a lot of honors, including the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, a Golden Globe, and now five Oscar nominations including best picture, actress, director and screenplay.
Of all the Oscar nominees up for Best Picture, the most obscure, I suppose, is the French film "Amour." But before you dismiss its chances out of hand, remember another French movie won last year. Sure it was mostly a silent, but still no one thought "The Artist" had a chance at first blush either.
That being said, "Amour" is never going to be a crowd pleaser.
For one thing, it's astonishingly narrow in its focus, and its subject matter is as severe and unpopular as one can imagine.
"Amour" painstakingly follows a long-married couple now in their eighties. They're relatively well-to-do former musicians who lead modestly active lives, reading the latest books and magazines, keeping up with current news of the day, and occasionally attending concerts by their former students. Most of their time is spent quietly in their apartment, doing the mundane work of living - eating breakfast together, talking and joking with each other, getting ready for bed. It's the definition of a shared life.
When the wife has a stroke, that dynamic changes some but not a lot. He helps her in and out of her wheelchair, in and out of bed, he washes her hair for her, but otherwise life goes back to normal. Or so it seems. Every so often, their conversations turn to matters personal and philosophical - about the beauty of life and about its limits. Those limits become more and more apparent as the movie proceeds.
At one point, a former student writes them a thank you note, calling his visit with them "a beautiful and sad moment." That's also a perfect grace note for this movie.
And the two veteran French movie stars are astonishingly believable as the old married couple. Emmanuelle Riva more than earned her surprise Oscar nomination for Best Actress. At 85, she's the oldest Oscar nominee ever. Here's hoping she becomes the oldest Oscar winner as well.