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Criterion revives a chilling tune with Michael Haneke's 'The Piano Teacher'

Criterion revives a chilling tune with Michael Haneke's 'The Piano Teacher'
Isabelle Huppert in the 2001 film "The Piano Teacher." (Criterion Collection)

Given the icy exactitude of their methods, it's no surprise that the French actress Isabelle Huppert and the Austrian director Michael Haneke have had such a long and marvelously discomfiting partnership. Their chilly collaborations include the post-apocalyptic disaster movie "Time of the Wolf" (2003), the wrenching end-of-love story "Amour" (2012) and a teasing new thriller, "Happy End," which Sony Pictures Classics will release in December.

But Huppert's finest performance for Haneke remains her first, in "The Piano Teacher," which catapulted both auteur and star to new levels of international attention. The movie, which will be released in a new Criterion Collection edition on Sept. 26, won three major prizes at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, including one for Huppert's fearless, terrifying performance as an ivory-tickling instructor torn between obsessive perfectionism and psychosexual masochism. It remains one masterful control freak's riveting portrait of another, a major achievement in a disturbingly minor key.

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