White material

White material

DVD - 2011 | French
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Despite the civil war going on around her, a white woman living in Africa refuses to give up her coffee plantation, putting herself and her sons in danger.
Publisher: New York, NY : Criterion Collection, [2011]
Edition: DVD ed., Special ed..
ISBN: 9781604654103
1604654104
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (105 min.) : sd., col. ; 4 3/4 in.

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lukasevansherman
Feb 13, 2019

There is along history, both historical and fictional, of whites messing around in Africa. French filmmaker Claire Denis's father was a civil servant, and she lived in several countries in Africa, where she has set a number of her films, including "Chocolat" and her masterpiece "Beau Travail." In "White Material," the white owner of a coffee plantation (the great Isabelle Huppert) is more concerned about her harvest than the civil war that is happening outside her door. In a nuanced, but trenchant way, Denis explores the cluelessness of white settlers and their inability to comprehend the violence that they, in part, are responsible for. It's an art film about colonialism, which isn't something you see too often. Christopher 'Highlander" Lambert and Isaach de Bankole co-star. Music by Stuart Staple of Tindersticks.

b
Byond
Aug 01, 2017

I sympathize with the one who found he had to see it twice understand the plot. One might save a bit of time by reading the wiki summary after an initial viewing. One way to describe this might widen its appeal; just imagine, as you go about your business, that you've just realized that you are in hell and things are going to get very bad indeed. There's some tension between a time to reap and a time to get out of there.
Life goes on regardless of circumstances until the damoclean sword falls, and its full of a number of things. Many of them find their way into your heart and mind via this. The French not showing their funny side here, but awesome determination. Grim and disturbing, thank you very much.

s
SherryNeufeld
Jun 29, 2015

Had to watch twice to really understand the film. Was well worth my time. Will be looking for more from this director.

n
Nursebob
Jun 12, 2015

Languidly paced using a palette of dusty earth tones beneath sun-bleached skies, director Claire Denis takes what could have been just another political potboiler and turns it into a psychological battleground where the lines have been intentionally blurred thus rendering any moral criticisms purely arbitrary. Is Maria’s fierce determination a virtue or foolhardy craziness? Do the guerrillas have legitimate grievances or are their terror tactics merely self-serving? Indeed scenes of child soldiers scrambling for candy one moment only to wave machine guns at terrified civilians the next contrast sharply with government troops wearing the flag even as they systematically cut the throats of dissidents. Even the colonialist Vial clan is split with Maria’s ex-husband scheming his way to the border, her dying father refusing to leave the home in which he was born, and her indolent son avoiding any commitments until a harsh brush with reality sends him careening into the abyss. Although Denis doesn’t shy away from the bloodshed inherent in any armed conflict the war itself is mostly background noise meant to provide context for the sundry personal tragedies it engenders and it is this lack of onscreen testosterone, coupled with a low-keyed soundtrack of reggae tunes and electro beats, which makes it all the more unsettling. A small cinematic coup whether taken as an intense character study or a metaphor for an entire continent.

m
ms_mustard
Apr 30, 2015

Huppert radiates determination in the face of losing all she knows. she fiercely fails to read the signals of sweeping change and immanent danger.

j
jaqmartial1
Dec 15, 2011

I did not like it...it is slow and disturbing...guess I was not in the mood..

roadshowrigoletto Nov 15, 2011

I guess it's safe to that it has been 'famously' said about the television show, Seinfeld that it is about nothing. Be that as it may, White Material is a film wherein sometimes it appears that nothing is happening. Certainly nothing straightforward. We see that some have died, but the filmmaker, Clair Denis is not going to make it easy for us to deposit the corpses into neat moral categories and then to be done with it. The 'before and then back again' story structure serves to immerse and I am quite sure at times confuse the audience. And this would be as much about the story that is being told as it would be about the expectations of audiences. Oh, and Isabelle Huppert might just be one of the finest actors in the damned world, too.

voisjoe1 Jun 16, 2011

Huppert plays a woman determined to harvest her crop of coffee in colonial Africa, amidst civil war, betrayal and violence. The flashback structure, although complex for the viewer, puts the viewer amidst the chaos, which seems inescapable.

ataraxia_8 Apr 18, 2011

It's a haunting film, and I can't get the motif of feet/footware out of my head. Some might find the narrative structure as pretentious but I found it as an extension of the theme.

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