What has Roger Ebert discovered about "Cache"?
January 15, 2010 2:54 AM   Subscribe

In a new essay on the film Cache, Roger Ebert says he has discovered a "smoking gun" that may explain the film's mystery. He says it occurs at around 20:39 on the DVD. Can somebody with access to the DVD tell me what is there? (For anybody who hasn't seen this film, Ebert's essay contains some spoilers--as (I hope!) will this thread.)
posted by yankeefog to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
There's a discussion about this on the imdb forums. There is ambiguity as to which version of the DVD Ebert was watching as it corresponds to different scenes for NTSC or PAL but both screenshots appear to be posted in the thread.
posted by hindmost at 4:00 AM on January 15, 2010

i haven't got the dvd, but the ripped version. At 17:30 we see the exact same frame as the endshot (that reveals that the two sons appear to have known each other) in front of the school. We see the father taking his son pierrot from school (to his son's surprise) They discuss the postcard that the father sent to school (but he didn't). At 19.12, there's a long shot from the house into the street, it's evening and we are looking at the position from which the video's are taken. The street is empty. At 19.38 there's a short flashback. We are in the house and see Majid as a young boy, it's evening. He's sitting at the window sill and is coughing up blood. At 19.50 we see Georges and Pierrot leaving the house from the same POV as the tapes, they walk towards the car. At 20:30 he picks something from his window that looks likes advertising. At 20:38 he looks at it. At 20:39 begins the scene with that fantastic story about the old lady and her dog.

I put the picture online of that thing he picked from the window here. For the moment, it doesn't make much sense to me. Tonight I'm going to watch the whole damn thing again for the 5th time. If I still don't get it, I'm afraid I have to buy the HD version of the movie, a 100" LED television and a pair of heavy duty binoculars, just to make sure I don't oversee any details. This movie is haunting me, like no movie ever did before and I just HAVE to know what happened. I allow myself to read the occasional article about the move, but I'm set on solving the riddle by myself.

Good luck yankeefog. According to Ebert, it's either that piece of paper from the window or it has something to do with the story about the dog. (if my version differs from the DVD version, please let me know)
posted by ouke at 4:26 AM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't know. Ebert said something similar about Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner, which we discussed on AskMe over here. I've watched both films many times since then, and I still do not see the tricks that he refers to.

Perhaps Ebert sees things in films that we cannot, either from his vast film viewing history or his work as a screenwriter, picking up on cinematic or writing tricks that are not obvious to people who are not in the "biz", or perhaps we are to take his enthusiasm with a small grain of salt.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:04 AM on January 15, 2010

Over on imdb, they discuss the possibility that due to ntsc/pal differences in the time coding, Ebert refers to scene where Majib is coughing up blood. I don't think that's true. There are more scenes where we see him doing this. And somebody says: if the flyer doesn't have any significance, why did he put it in the movie?
I can't wait to see it tonight. I just hope Haneke is a lurking mefite and steps into the green one of these days.
posted by ouke at 7:16 AM on January 15, 2010

A lot of Ebert's review is about the positioning of the camera taking the footage that is received; if the footage is question is the frame about the car, then there is a strong implication that the smoking gun has to do with the car being in the same place as the videotaper (if not at the same time).
If we accept the above as a possibility, then we can explore: who put the paper on the car? Who was in the car who might have seen it? Or maybe the point is that no one else could have occupied that space in that time - was a video made of this visit? Would it had to have been made from someone in the same position as the car?
All speculation - but Ebert is so very insistent on the concept of camera position that this is my first reaction.
posted by Billegible at 8:34 AM on January 15, 2010

That picture is too small for me to tell: is there something going on in the side mirror of the car? Is that someone with a video camera?
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on January 15, 2010

Try emailing him? He seems pretty web savvy and might respond to you.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:31 AM on January 15, 2010

Over on imdb, they discuss the possibility that due to ntsc/pal differences in the time coding, Ebert refers to scene where Majib is coughing up blood.


Now I call your attention to the shot I missed the first time through. You will find it on the DVD, centering around 20:39. You tell me what it means.

note the words, "centering around 20:39". Whatever it might be, I'm imagining it'll be there a bit before, and a bit after, 20:39.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 11:24 AM on January 15, 2010

in the photo of the scene, what's in the flyer/advertisement that he's holding?

and that's his wife in the car with him, right?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2010

Has to be his son, in my version you see a long shot of the two of them coming out of the house and walking towards the car.
posted by flippant at 11:48 AM on January 15, 2010

Here's the chronology I see:

1. View from what we later discover to be Georges' bedroom, over "Rue Des Iris" (Iris as in eye?), where the opening shot was filmed.

It's late at night, and we cut to...

2. A night scene from the living room of the house he grew up in (we know this from a visit he makes to his mother). Majid is seen in the window sill coughing blood. Another nightmare from the lies Georges fabricated?

Daytime again, with a long shot of Georges and Pierrot exiting their home...

3. A long shot of the two of them walking towards the car, getting in almost exactly where the opening shot would've been filmed from (perspective compression doesn't suggest a telephoto). Georges sees a pamphlet on the windshield of his car; his reaction is ambiguous - is he worried that it might be another threatening drawing? The viewer sees no detail in the pamphlet until he picks it up.

(probably irrelevant) sidenote: the shadow cast by the headlights of the car approaching at 10:25 look kind of like a (cinematographers') camera.
posted by flippant at 12:10 PM on January 15, 2010

At 52:25 he says "You were older than me. I had no choice" with regard to fighting and protecting what was his. Majid could be implying the insidious tactics Georges used to have him ousted, but the line is left hanging..
posted by flippant at 12:20 PM on January 15, 2010

I hadn't seen this film again since it came out, so my memory is not so good, but.. did Georges deliberately get his parents to send Majid away by convincing them that Majid was coughing up blood, even though from Georges' point of view, it wasn't true? But if a flashback showed Majid coughing up blood, the reason for which he was sent away was valid. But Georges didn't know that and thought he was making up a lie, but he was unwittingly making up the truth, so to speak.
posted by citron at 1:44 PM on January 15, 2010

I'm probably off base though, only going on poor memories and Wikipedia summary of what happened. At the time I didn't think it was so important to determine who was making the tapes, and in fact might be impossible to tell. But I thought it was important that simply being watched or surveilled causes characters to remember things about which they feel guilty. If the police knew about the surveillance tapes they might have a further connection established between Georges and Majid, though they already know there is some connection, once they search Majid's apartment when Pierrot does not return home.

I recall wondering at the time if Majid committed suicide in such a way that it would, in fact, not only make Georges feel in some way responsible for the death, but make him a possible suspect in a murder. Imagine if police arrive at the scene and gather facts that tell them: these two have a connection because Georges suspected Majid of kidnapping his son at least, and now Majid's throat has been cut and Georges was at the scene when it happened. Now I am not saying Georges would necessarily be prosecuted, but it would probably upset his life significantly to even be connected to this death and its investigation, since asking "Why would this man Majid want you there to witness this?" or "Why did this man commit suicide not long after you brought police to his door?" would have the effect of digging up a lot of history Georges would rather hide.
posted by citron at 2:23 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

is there something going on in the side mirror of the car? Is that someone with a video camera?

Yes, what is that? Can someone with the DVD zoom in?
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 6:30 PM on January 15, 2010

is there something going on in the side mirror of the car? Is that someone with a video camera?

Yes, what is that? Can someone with the DVD zoom in?

There's a better picture here, doesn't look like anything important in the mirror.

That link has a few other possible leads. A blue car?
posted by naju at 7:00 PM on January 15, 2010

A lot of Ebert's review is about the positioning of the camera taking the footage that is received; if the footage is question is the frame about the car, then there is a strong implication that the smoking gun has to do with the car being in the same place as the videotaper (if not at the same time).

For what it's worth, when I saw Haneke interviewed onstage at London's BFI last month, the interviewer cried in mock exasperation, "Having seen Caché several times, and having carefully studied the camera placement in the footage that's sent to the couple, I've come to the conclusion that you, Haneke, are the one who sent the tapes, because it is physically impossible for them to have been sent by any of the actual characters!" Haneke replied, "No, they were sent by a character," with a sly little smile that (I thought) implied that camera placement was indeed a clue.

I know that doesn't help much.
posted by hot soup girl at 8:16 PM on January 15, 2010

Response by poster: Hmmm... I guess in this film, even the smoking gun is highly ambiguous!

I'll e-mail Ebert and hope he clears it up in a future Answer Man column.

Thanks, everybody!
posted by yankeefog at 2:09 AM on January 17, 2010

Nope. Nothing. More nail biting. Sneering at the wife. Long silences over dinner. Well, at least the HD version enabled me to read the street signs, so I could pinpoint the location of the house in Paris. Here's the streetview link http://bit.ly/5XQoEw , in case you think the location might be of interest.
We seriously considered that the tapes were indeed sent by the director. So thanks, hot soup girl for narrowing it down to either Georges, the main character, Majid's son or Pierrot. So, basically everybody. Let us know what is happening yankeefog, if there's any development.
posted by ouke at 1:22 PM on January 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I just emailed Ebert via the Answer Man asking him to explain. I'll come back here and post further if he does, or if an anonymous figure from my past begins sending me video tapes that explain everything.

Oh, and in the meantime, Growabrain emailed me to tell me that this question has also sparked a discussion on The Awl, which provides lots of intriguing theories but no conclusive answers.

I begin to suspect that this gun is not so much smoking as emitting a vague, elusive vapor, the contemplation of which will lead me only to further and more disturbing questions. I hate guns like that.
posted by yankeefog at 2:17 AM on January 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why is Ebert bringing this up now anyway?
I remember having a conversation with a movie-director friend who knows from what and he (as well as loving the movie) maintained that the answer was in the last image. (When we notice Pierrot talking with Majid's son)

*Here's the spoiler explanation*
Majid's son is fucking with George, through Pierrot. M's son feeds Pierrot the story about George getting Majid kicked out of his/their house. By bringing up this incidence of cowardice on George's part (though granted he was only six at the time)(an act of cowardice that not incidentally echoed the mass drowning Majid(?) later relates (Georges is a coward, just like all of France)) Pierrot has a way to get at his blow-hard dad. M's son has a way to extract revenge for a perceived wrong (the treatment of his father by George _and_ of all Algerians by France).
At least that's the way I remembered it. Now, of course, I'm going to go back and watch the movie again.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:25 AM on January 18, 2010

Ha! Awesome. I tweeted Ebert an hour before he posted that response. (Though I'm sure others did too.)

However, if it is the shot of the bleeding mouth to which Ebert's referring, I'm a little disappointed. I've only seen the film once, but I understood the significance of that scene the first time. I'm obviously going to have to buy this bloody DVD.
posted by hot soup girl at 10:41 AM on January 18, 2010

That was interesting, but I'm with hot soup girl here. Learning that the shot was a POV doesn't seem to help us in figuring out whose POV it is. As for the bleeding mouth, how does that provide a smoking gun? The back story between Georges and Majid is clear enough...
posted by naju at 11:25 AM on January 18, 2010

Alright, supposing for a minute that Mirasol's hypothesis of Pierrot as the sender stands, two issues arise:

1a. The filming of the house Georges grew up in. Pierrot can't drive, obviously.
1b. The filming in the car to (driving) and the hallway of Majid's apartment (pov - a taller person than Pierrot filmed this).
2. How did the camera get into Majid's apartment? Don't expect me to believe a young teenager did it alone.

Combine these incongruities, add to that the final scene where you see Majid's son and Pierrot talking outside the school with obvious familiarity (Pierrot seemingly being reassured about something), and the only explanation I can come up with to unify these is that...

Pierrot and Majid's son orchestrated it.

In hindsight it makes sense.

Pierrot would've been able to push his parent's buttons, and more than likely had his buttons pushed by Majid's son:

1. Pierrot being upset at his mother for allegedly having an affair with Pierre (a video of their encounter could easily be misconstrued to that effect)
2. Teenage rebellion combined with the knowledge and gravity of what his father did (as related to him by Majid's son).

It makes too much sense, and as far as I can see, covers all bases.
posted by flippant at 12:46 PM on January 18, 2010

Best answer: He just posted a followup article: A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
posted by effbot at 2:22 AM on January 19, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody, for the fascinating discussion. Looks like I'm not going to find out what Haneke thinks the answer is-- I agree that Ebert's "smoking gun" doesn't prove much. But at least I know what Ebert thinks the answer is.
posted by yankeefog at 2:39 AM on January 19, 2010

thank god, we can rest now...

(i knew it)
posted by ouke at 1:15 PM on January 19, 2010

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