Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lambert & Huppert in "White Material"

"There can be only one..."

...01 / 01 / 11
How about that funky date today? Happy New Year.

The New Year couldn't come soon enough because I was informed yesterday that this blog had run out of storage space! The renovated site should be up in the next 36 hours to rescue us. I'll let you know.

Today's very special once in a hundred years date reminded me oof Highlander's Christopher Lambert.  On account of all the #1s.
"There can be only one!"
I assume this mnemonic moment was brought to me by Claire Denis's White Material which I was just watching the other day (in theaters and on IFC on demand) in which he plays Isabelle Huppert's ex-husband who -- I'm not sure if I got the details right because Denis always makes you work for them -- still lives on the African coffee plantation with her (and his new wife and his two wildly contrasted sons from both marriages).

It's crazy enough to live with your ex. When your ex is Isabelle Huppert (she's always trouble) and you're running a plantation in a region that's slipping into violent chaos and the French military are helicoptering out and dropping you survival kits on their way, you are totally off your gourd. Everyone in this movie is insane. But Huppert is contagious like that.

Lambert's presence is an extremely clever bit of casting since the international star already famously embodied everyone's favorite white-man-rules-Africa imperialist fantasy in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan Lord of the Apes. In White Material there is no fantasy unless you count the delirium one can sometimes experience when faced with Huppert's riveting confrontational opacity. You'd expect, given the plot, that her plantation owner Maria is a stubborn delusional but Huppert tilts her closer to the implacably deterministic. She isn't flaunting a death wish so much as a death expectation. Rebel forces and their child soldiers have had it with this "white material" on their land but Maria is staying put.  Disturbing movie.

"Manuel" (Nicholas Duvauchelle). Does he get his death wish from his mother?

I can't say I fully connected but I always love Denis's reliable command of atmosphere and I appreciated what Guy Lodge correctly described as "laudably complicated politics". I'm desperately awaiting Nick's full review because his twitter capsule
Agonized and fearless, eerily sympathetic, formally electric, like the last visions of someone being burned alive
...makes me love the movie more in retrospect than when I was watching it. That happens sometimes with the best of film criticism.

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