780 Code Unknown

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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therewillbeblus
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#51 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:23 pm

I think that's a spot-on reading of the elisions beyond the title to vivify its themes, and a great point regarding the people who come in within the frames we are watching to cause, or leave effects of, comfort or discomfort. This on its own destroys a similarity to Haneke's strategy implicating the audience with Funny Games through omitting many visual demonstrations of the torturers' agency in causing harm, because we are offered outlets to our unease at the destruction of suture in observing these social results, and so the disturbance is minor and actually opens our peripheries to new methods to engage with the (people in the) film and take in information outside of a complacent narrative structure. That self-reflexively fits precisely with that reading that modern systems in their rigidity blur our vision to the opportunities for empathy and compassion ubiquitously connecting us.
Last edited by therewillbeblus on Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Never Cursed
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#52 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:42 pm

Is it worth seeking this or indeed any Haneke out if one hated Funny Games, like really despised it? I understand a lot of his movies deal with similar themes - do they, uh, approach them in similar ways?
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:23 pm
Haneke's strategy implicating the audience with Funny People
Wait a minute, maybe I have this all wrong...

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#53 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:53 pm

Haha, well I find the Apatow's third act far more offensive than anything in Funny Games, but to answer your question: Yes, Code Unknown is a far more empathic film, and certainly not one that's as pathologically manipulative- even if he frequently uses manipulations, in a broad sense, in an effort to reach some outcome of audience sobriety. I'm hot-and-cold on his oeuvre as a whole, but this film, Caché and The White Ribbon are excellent. The Piano Teacher is good too, but rather cold, and akin to Funny Games' tone in that regard even if the formal strategy is very different, so you may want to avoid that one depending on your particular issues with that film

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knives
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#54 Post by knives » Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:37 pm

Funny Games, especially the German version which is my my second least favorite of his films, seems increasingly an outlier stylistically if not thematically from the rest of his movies. The French films in general seem like a good starting point since they are more clearly use empathy as a means to themselves rather than Funny Games’ use of empathy to shame the audience. Probably avoid Benny’s Video for now though.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#55 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Nov 15, 2021 10:48 pm

If you hated Funny Games you can safely avoid Benny's Video forever

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Matt
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#56 Post by Matt » Tue Nov 16, 2021 12:04 am

In comparison, Funny Games and Code Unknown feel like the work of completely different filmmakers; amazing that they were made one after the other (albeit with a three-year gap). In the progression of Haneke’s entire body of work, however, it’s much easier to see the continuity. The latter must stand as one of the Great Humanist European Arthouse Films of the late 20th century, though. Of a piece with Kieslowski’s late films, Rosetta, La Haine, All About My Mother, Kings and Queen.

I appreciate the immense talent, skill, and control behind Funny Games, but I wouldn’t care to see it more than once a decade. Benny’s Video I am fine only seeing once, and I’d probably only recommend it to anyone determined to work their way through Haneke’s complete filmography, and even then maybe as the next-to-last film so as to have something else to move on to quickly.

The poster is really the best thing about the US remake of Funny Games.

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domino harvey
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#57 Post by domino harvey » Tue Nov 16, 2021 3:00 am

Never Cursed wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:42 pm
Is it worth seeking this or indeed any Haneke out if one hated Funny Games, like really despised it? I understand a lot of his movies deal with similar themes - do they, uh, approach them in similar ways?
This film has a lot of interesting scenes and sequences but it’s all a bit too cryptic in its construction to really gel for me. But I’d say it’s still worth seeing, if just for the one moment in the film I think everyone can agree on, the metro sequence. I highly recommend reading the dedicated thread after viewing as well for many more comprehensive defenses of the film!

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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#58 Post by colinr0380 » Tue Nov 16, 2021 4:30 am

I think perhaps the most key aspect of Code Unknown (and every Haneke film really) is the focus on and critique of 'The Gaze'. Not just something as specifc as the 'male gaze' or the 'white, Western, middle class privilege' gaze (though there are certainly scenes which bring these ideas up) but more of 'the gaze' in general all encompassing terms.

Every situation in the film is involving people having to cope with events 'in the moment' and they often are completely failing to properly be able to understand the perspective from which another person they are interacting with is approaching the situation. Or even if they could they don't want to have to understand. Those specific failures often end up snowballing out from a specific interaction into collateral damaging other innocent bystanders who may be interacted with next, as most on display in the initial boulevard scene that brings all of the major plotlines together briefly, before splintering them apart again. Maybe the characters don't have to or need to fully understand each other in order to do what they feel is necessary to do in each situation being presented (although it would probably help if they did!), and there could be a whole essay written about the importance of meeting someone halfway and empathy for another's situation or point of view being the ultimate form of connection with another yet also a scarily dangerous sign of possibly being unstable and unmoored from one's own sense of self and notions of 'correct' behaviours. Correct behaviours that nobody else might appreciate but you! Does being too open to alternate perspectives leave a person completely at the mercy of the impositions of others to overwhelm them with their own fears and concerns, thoughts and drives? Or does there have to be a mental barrier drawn there to just be able to properly exist as an independent person inside a functioning society, even if that means blocking people out for one's own peace of mind? But where is everyone drawing their individual lines on this subject?

And does the point where someone starts expressing their mentally circumscribed (and maybe hideously blinkered) viewpoints on a subject become truly scary when they start expressing it outwards in the form of blunt social control: a guy complaining about a girl playing hard to get; parent admonishing child for not being what they want them to be or doing what they want them to do; torturer projecting their needs onto an uncomprehending victim; freelance journalist espousing their assumed shared worldviews to a nebulous (and maybe non-existent) readership; actor projecting to the (maybe non-existent) audience out there in the dark beyond the spotlights; police to protestor, just annoyed at the ruckus and disruption they are causing in the street rather than caring about the reasons why they are making a fuss; the activist themselves co-opting bystanders for extra presumed legitimacy for their cause, etc, etc. People in the process of (opportunistically?) creating situations or shaping the world in a manner that they can understand to then be able to function within it, and exploit those within in it as the raw clay-like malleable material to fit into their various causes? Or if they don't neatly fit into the assigned pre-conceived role, they'll be squashed and shaped until they are made to fit, however imperfectly.

Code Unknown feels all about situations where characters are on the one hand struggling to comprehend the worldview of others (and often failing miserably to do so on the occasions when they do try), and in the face of that mental stumbling block retreating into somewhat more blunt and brutal (and often coercive and borderline abusive) direct physical actions that distil complex situations down into direct action to make them easier to deal with. Direct actions that are often worse than whatever triggered the interactions in the first place, or at least create a whole chain of awful consequences in their wake.

Only we in the audience get to have a bit of distance from the various disconnected tableaus of events to be able to take some compassionate (or dispassionate?) perspective on the situation playing out. We are in a privileged position to not be forced to have to take an immediate stand on the situation but are able to sit back and see how the power dynamics between various characters are fluctuating all the time.

But does that distance make us into kind of monsters too, able to look on safely and say to ourselves: "Wow, how could they have done that?" or "If only they just did this and then it would have played out differently", or "How could they have been so stupid as to get themselves locked up by a murderer, or climb onto a balcony railing and almost fall off the side?" etc, etc. Our privileged 'outsider's eye' itself is in danger of becoming callous and cruel: in danger of becoming as smirking and dispassionate as the lads in Funny Games, or disturbingly amorally blank towards having compassion towards the characters at our whims to treat charitably or uncharitably as we see fit. It can be argued that it can be a sign of self-protective behaviour and lack of full and direct engagement with the issues to remain aloof and detached, but it also provides a way of taking a step back and looking at situations divorced from the visceral reality of directly impactful crises (like viewing an overseas warzone through artfully composed still images of atrocities and suffering and an authoritative voiceover. A literally mediated experience). Whether that works to create more empathy or a callous sociopath is probably (as with everything) dependent on what the viewer themselves brings to it. Perhaps the subplot involving the tech-savvy daughter in Happy End is the latest iteration of this idea.

There's a theme of technological distanciation there too, which Haneke was going to look into much more directly later in scenes such as the sex club booth in The Piano Teacher, the mysterious CCTV video in Hidden or in Happy End (but which has always been there in the videotaped self-destruction of the family in The Seventh Continent or Benny's videos in, um, Benny's Video). In Code Unknown it is all centred around the production processes of Anna's film and audition for a play; and Georges' photojournalism projects, whether in a warzone or taking surreptitious photos of unwitting and unconsenting Metro passengers. But I do not feel that Haneke is suggesting that distanciation (technological or otherwise) is a purely bad thing in itself. As with every interaction on display in Code Unknown, it comes down to how it is used - to provide insight or context, or to oppress and impose. Or to bluntly block someone out from full interaction (or at least right to reply! Because that would be too awkward in potentially countering the imposition of the one-way gaze coming at them), at least temporarily, because as we know from many Haneke films (and in particular the back and forth journey of the illegal immigrant here), the issues always come washing back onto shore sooner or later.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Thu Nov 25, 2021 5:13 am, edited 8 times in total.

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Big Ben
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#59 Post by Big Ben » Tue Nov 16, 2021 6:09 am

Never Cursed wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:42 pm
Is it worth seeking this or indeed any Haneke out if one hated Funny Games, like really despised it? I understand a lot of his movies deal with similar themes - do they, uh, approach them in similar ways?
therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 9:23 pm
Haneke's strategy implicating the audience with Funny People
Wait a minute, maybe I have this all wrong...
Benny's Video is one of those films that in retrospect I think is a lot more graphic than it actually was. But I would follow the advice of the other posters and avoid it if you didn't like the finger pointing of Funny Games as it's the most ghoulish of the Glaciation Trilogy and is certainly the most violent. My vote for the Haneke film that I like the most that doesn't have a ton of graphic violence would probably be his debut, The Seventh Continent which is more about urban alienation than anything else. But if you were hoping for a fun movie you've come to the wrong place!

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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#60 Post by knives » Tue Nov 16, 2021 7:21 am

Frau, a sort of critique of The Marriage of Maria Braun, is also a pretty good early film.

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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#61 Post by Magic Hate Ball » Fri Nov 19, 2021 4:30 pm

I will submit that The Piano Teacher is an extremely fun movie.

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colinr0380
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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#62 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Nov 21, 2021 7:41 am

Re-watching Code Unknown again last night reminded me of a few more moments I love. When Amadou is restrainedly calmly trying to justify his actions to the police officer after the altercation with Jean in the opening boulevard scene, and mentions the treatment of the beggar as his motivation for the fight I love that we follow the other police officer as he walks over to the attempting to walk away woman, grabs her with the long arm of the law and roughly manhandles her inescapably back into the situation. Less for the camera dolly (though that is wonderful) but for the way that as we leave the main group Amadou is seemingly being listened to about his actions and then on the other police officer returning with the beggar all of thirty seconds or so later everything has moved on in the interim and we are just getting the final words from the shopkeeper incensed by all these youths of today brawling on the street outside his shop! That more than anything shows Amadou's lack of power just to hold people's attention on his reasonings.

That moment of Anna, or rather the character that Anna is playing in the scene in the audition tape for the film, just reluctantly and briefly flicking her eyes upwards to the ceiling from which deadly gas is apparently coming through is also an amazing moment. Though arguably a bit too nuanced and powerful to just be deployed in an audition tape!

In the Romanian section after Maria has received the lift from the obviously rather wealthy gentleman (trafficker?) whose wife is working as a teacher in Rome, I love that the shot continues as he drives on showing all of the currently empty houses in various stages of being built, their owners out of the country to earn the money to finish them up. And I like that Maria ping-ponging back from Romania to Paris, but being cruelly disabused of any notions of legitimate (albeit undercover) work gets contrasted with the patriarch of Amadou's family seemingly abandoning his Parisien family for a return to the (simpler?) African continent. I wonder if he himself is going to find his romantic-practical notions of a fresh start themselves challenged?

It was sad to note that a couple of actors here have recently passed away. Maurice Bénichou, who plays the "Old Arab" facing down the two younger youths in the Metro passed away back in 2019. He had a number of notable film roles including in Raul Ruiz's 1978 film The Suspended Vocation as well as in Amélie just after Code Unknown, and also in Haneke's Time of the Wolf and Caché (and appears in films such as Jane Birkin's Boxes, the Michel Piccoli starring Under The Roofs of Paris, and Cédric Klapisch's Paris).

Also Luminița Gheorghiu, who plays Maria, passed away on 4th July this year, who herself was in Time of the Wolf after this, and appears in a number of films of the New Romanian Cinema: The Death of Mr Lazarescu, 12:08 From Bucharest, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Aurora, Silent Wedding and Radu Jude's Aferim!

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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#63 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Nov 25, 2021 5:40 am

therewillbeblus wrote:
Mon Nov 15, 2021 8:22 pm
I especially like how the shots of Binoche screaming from the aloof camera angle are at first intended to trigger our empathy from the stance that she's obviously being tortured and watched by a madman, only to discover it's part of the film she's working on with ensuing information, because that feels like a manipulative tactic executed for the right reasons. Someone more cynical about Haneke's motives (or those that believe them to be uniform in specificity) could argue that Haneke is stating that we are prone to gravitate towards the more disgusting interpretation and align as surrogates with an empowered torturer only to be sober to our problematic conditioned- or worse, innate- thinking patterns, but I don't think that's fair. Rather, he is allowing us to empathize and fear for her, invest in a narrative we have no stakes of involvement in by this point, simply because she is a human being in trouble. The relief of finding out that this is part of a film runs counter to the projected diagnosing of Funny Games: We've been provided an outlet to immediately care about someone based on heightened empathy to any human being in trouble, divorcing the concept from the idea that we need to follow along and get to artificially 'know' a character in digesting cinema (or person in real life, to use the "me and mine" anti-humanist conservative ideology in its extreme form of devaluation) and affirming our own humanity's ease at engagement in the process. Even without mastery, even without selfish investment, even without the ability to clearly communicate or receive lucid information, our hearts will prevail- and seamlessly so. We can access that within a brief snippet of a frame out of context, even if we cannot decode 'why'.
I do often wonder what would happen if somebody took those sequences of the film within a film, reversed their order because the film within a film is 'running backwards' through the production process that we see of it (in the manner of Irreversible's 'straight cut'. Which reminds me that Code Unknown is relatively overlooked as being consistent with that Irreversible and Memento early 2000s trend of playing around with the very structure of film and narrative flow to see what new meanings result) and then cut them all together as one piece. I wonder if someone has done that on YouTube as yet.

It would be interesting to see the early scene of the film fully edited and scored (if not completely properly dubbed as yet!), then go through the first scene in the house as a long flowing sequence shot (as in many a Haneke film); then the second half of that scene that continues events up to the character being locked up and looking directly into camera being shown as a 'first take' from a third-person perspective showing the first camera crew; and then the direct to-camera pleadings of the character being shown through the rough video-looking audition tape. If it played out that way it might become even more obvious that it is almost playing out like the filmmaking process starts falling apart at the seams, getting rougher and rawer as it goes.

It would certainly be a much bleaker narrative arc, and a much more obviously Funny Games-style one as well, offering no escape from the victim caught in the torturer's web (because we only get to see Anne's scenes and none of the investigating policework in the scenes surrounding it. She even rebuffs a query about whether her character lives or dies in the film as being a spoiler and her friend will just have to go and see the finished film in the cinema to find out!) and ending with her final despairing plea of trying to understand what her captor wants from her (which itself could have parallels with the subject of a documentary wondering just what the filmmakers want out of them, and how they want them to behave; or an actress trying to figure out her director's directions), without comprehending that the captor may have everything that they want in just having a new plaything to torment, so there is no further discussion forthcoming at that point.

I would agree twbbs that simply by reversing the presentation of each scene (and strengthening the filmmaking artifice until by the end the 'first scenes' of the film within a film look like a classically made thriller with edits and zooms and shot-countershots) it kind of manufactures a 'happy ending' for the character inside the film as they get reversed to before their troubles began. It feels as if it is working as a counterpoint to the raw unflinching dispassionate gaze of the long takes in Funny Games, although maybe its closest comparison is to the remote control reversing sequence there. Or even darker to Benny rewinding his murder tapes to relive the otherwise unrepeatable moment of death over and over again in Benny's Video - we might see the character 'saved' here from our fragmentary experience of scenes existing in isolation and peppered throughout a larger narrative, yet when the film is released into cinemas there will be hundreds of prints spooling out of that character getting inescapably ensnared and facing certain death over and over again. Maybe it works as a comment on how the media sanitises and creates entertainment out of horrific situations, and makes them palatable by applying a certain set of filmmaking techniques that reassures the audience that what they are watching is, after all, only a movie... only a movie... only a movie...

(I would also be curious to know whether Haneke has seen or has ever commented on what he might think about the original version of The Vanishing at all, which is still one of the best explorations of these kind of themes)
Last edited by colinr0380 on Fri Nov 26, 2021 2:27 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#64 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Nov 26, 2021 12:25 am

Interesting thoughts, colin, as always! It's a curious film for its particularly fragmented presentation, which manages to hold a power of suture to thwart our mastery, but in an abstract, elastic methodology that conversely allows for more personal (if endless) interpretations, rather than prescribed and intrusive (a la Funny Games) aggressive spoonfeeding of information. So instead of sustaining that pendulum swing into uncomfortable, clear, and didactic sobriety, we are granted unlimited freedom to feel connection (and thus subjectively find our place on the spectrum between optimism and cynicism) within layers of disconnected material. It may be Haneke's kindest film directed at both his characters and his audience, while still retaining his ethos in form, if only for liberating our ability to locate our own experience within his restricting demands. You know, kind of like life itself!

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Re: Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)

#65 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Nov 26, 2021 5:32 am

Another fascinating thing about Code Unknown is what it does with children. Usually in a Haneke film children are the watchful observers of their parents behaviours who are just beginning to find their feet in the world before finding themselves suddenly ensnared inside incomprehendably enormous situations not of their making (that usually involve some sort of apocalyptic upending of societal norms, even if it is just an intimate apocalypse occurring within a single family unit) but have to deal with them all the same. They often end up deciding on taking some kind of action that bluntly crystallises the themes of the film (the son going for the shotgun in Funny Games; arguably the two tormenters themselves in Funny Games; the sacrificial ritual that will 'fix everything' being naively attempted by the boy at the end of Time of the Wolf; Benny himself in Benny's Video; the daughter in The Seventh Continent; most obviously all the kids in The White Ribbon, etc), just to try and restore some kind of 'natural order' (or justice?) to the world. Though it usually ends up making the situation even worse, especially for themselves.

In Code Unknown the 'watchful child' figure is almost completely pushed to the margins of the film. They mostly only exist in reality offscreen as disembodied muffled screams from the next apartment over; or extended family members in Romania who one barely sees due to having to travel to make money to send back home and pay for their houses after they get married off. An older child example of this is probably the farmer's son, who is continually trying to escape unsuccessfully from his circumstances and when he eventually successfully does so, he is never seen again.

Or they exist but only in the form of forever still photographs (as the innocent victims of inexplicable adult conflicts), or inside the universe of a fictional film (where they are the motivators through their childish actions that earn them a slap of the situation that ends up getting the main character searching for a new home and then captured by the tormentor)

The only exception is Amadou's family which kind of does the reverse where the children are very present and upsetting their parents by continually being in trouble with the authorities who appear to have a grudge against them (for some inexplicable reason :-k ). With the ironic twist that after sitting the son down to understand his side of the bullying situation that took place at school, that somehow leads to the father abandoning the family to go back to Africa!

Then there are the bookends that take place outside of the scope of the film with the deaf kids performing sign language (which ties into Amadou's sister being deaf and Amadou himself running the drumming classes for deaf kids), which kind of literalises the idea of the next generation being even more pointedly having their own barriers to communication with the wider society and being unable to get their message across beyond their peer group (if even there, as we see from the opening that even within peer groups people can have widely differing interpretations of a single gesture!)

Most of the children on display here are so marginalised that they are ignored at best, figures without agency of their own to be utilised in media however they see fit at average (or being seen as 'ungrateful troublemakers' who are refusing to properly fit in and need to be dealt with, which applies to Amadou, the farmer's son and the two youths on the train), and disembodied screams or literally voiceless and unable to cross the communication divide at worst!
___

N.B.: I think that you also have to make a distinction between the young children figures in a Haneke film, who often have some sort of ability to crystallise the themes of the world through their fresh eyes; and the teenager characters, who are losing their innocence and in the process of becoming 'just another adult inhabiting current society'. You often get both characters in a film whose experiences complement each other - Time of the Wolf is a key example, I think - but in Code Unknown there are multiple young children as well as multiple teenage and young adult characters on display, all nuanced differently, which complicates the structure even further and, especially when our group of middle aged Parisienne characters (contrasting against the similarly aged Romanian immigrant in mostly being in control and able to influence the world around them... mostly) and at least three different and somewhat beaten down by life elderly characters (on their way out the other end of society) get thrown into the mix as well, it lends a multi-faceted even within its multi-generational sense to the film.

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