Writing in this month's Sight & Sound, Geoff Andrew lambasts the widely held conception that Michael Haneke's work is that of "some kind of sadistic, didactic provocateur". Andrew states:
Such charges are as misguided as the claim that his films are 'cold' ... Besides the obvious consideration that facile equations of tone, form and content should be avoided, one need only look at the films themselves to note the inadequacy of these criticisms.
While I'm not really bothered that Andrew's take on Haneke diverges from mine (you need only look at the deliberate moments of studied controversy in his films - random example: the protagonist of 'The Piano Teacher' sniffing a tissue someone has, ahem, wiped off on at a peepshow - to note that actually, yes, he is a provocateur), it worries me that a professional (ie. paid for it) film critic writing in a prestige publication should dismiss "equations of tone, form and content" as "facile".
Tone, form and content are the essential components from which a film's aesthetic derives. A film's aesthetic (ie. its capacity to function on an artistic, intellectual and/or emotional level) is the key to understanding, appreciating or writing about it in an objective and intelligent manner.