The Piano Teacher

Rated 2.0 A middle-aged French music professor (Isabelle Huppert, grim and stone-faced, her mouth an angry slit) spends her days resolutely destroying her students’ self-confidence, so that none of them will ever outshine her. When a virile, effortlessly attractive young pianist (Benoit Magimel) enters her life, she turns out (not surprisingly) to have a streak of sexual sadomasochism several miles wide. Fine performances by Huppert and Magimel, both of whom won awards at Cannes (for what that’s worth), and by Annie Girardot as Huppert’s batty old mother, can’t overcome the fact that director Michael Haneke’s script (from Elfriede Jelinek’s novel) is contrived, unmotivated and psychologically unpersuasive, with an inconclusive ending—the fact that Haneke’s pacing is leaden with pretentious French pauses.