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I found the film sucks. Looks like too many events are cobbled together without preparation. Characters that know each other for long time seems not to care for each other. It's low budget. The story can't work as is. We arrive in strange country , we don't know anyone or anything and it is crumbling fast. It seems revenge racism is at work but it is only thieves and thugs that are profiting. A bit like under Mobutu.
A great movie by Claire Denis with an inspired Isabelle Huppert
Its use of nonlinear narrative helps it's subtle power become more fully realized and enraged.
Female lead did fight really hard for what she wanted...
A thought-provoking political commentary in which Denis sets out to examine the white colonialist abuse and its consequences in a French-speaking African country, even if it doesn't feel so well finished, especially when it comes to Manuel's erratic (and puzzling) actions.
mezmerizing. hupert is superb. and some scenes.... are just hard to erase from memory.
Loosely based on the story of Doris Lessing's novel, "White Material" is without question, Clair Denis' most personal film yet.
Isabelle Huppert gives another in a string of amazing performances as a determined woman who married into a wealthy white French family who runs a highly profitable African coffee plant. It is clear that since her former Father-in-law has sunk into a sort of drunken retirement, it has been her blood, sweat and tears that has kept the plantation and mill working. Long divorced from her husband, she seems to have largely raised their clearly somehow damaged son and is now more involved with her ex-husband's new wife and child than she really cares to be --- all of the challenges of her daily life take a back seat when the family's coffee plantation is threatened by an African Civil War and racial conflict.
Denis does not hold your hand. Much is never clearly explained. Luckily she has Huppert who can convey more with a glance or slight movement than most actors can achieve with a page of dialogue. We come to understand that Huppert's "Maria" is fighting her own internal struggle with sympathy for the revolution going on around her, but she is determined to get one last last coffee season completed. It almost seems as if her determination is fueled by her frustrations with this family and its stupidity in the way it has handled relations with the African natives of the land.
When her confused son allows a controversial African "Hero" who stands in opposition to this current regime attempting revolution a hiding place in their sprawling cave of a home -- challenges take on a far more dangerous level of risk -- not just for the family business but for the family itself.
As the hate-fueled rebellion gains rage and vengeance, the family is placed under "house arrest" and no one is willing to help Maria save her crop.
The last quarter of this film is so very important that I hesitate to write much more. Suffice to say that Claire Denis uses this familial and simultaneous civil war as reminders of the depths of human cruelty can take in the form of "ideals" and "control" -- In the end our protagonist comes face to face with Evil Face of Racism and the result is as surprising as it is devastating.
Claire Denis may not offer much in the way of explanation as she really doesn't need to do, but she holds nothing back in this visceral and disturbingly violent film. This is a world where "race" is really not the true motivation. "Children" are no more valuable than the money and righteousness that power can provide. Weapons are in the wrong hands -- sometimes too small to even hold them. And "innocence" and "evil intent" are meaningless in a coup bent on power.
Like Maria, we are left struggling to understand the enormity of what has just happened and continues to happen. This is a blunt and brutal cerebral gut punch of a film.
Be warned: This film is quite violent. Not for the feint of heart. However, if you think you can handle it -- Claire Denis has a great deal to say here -- And Isabelle Huppert gives one of her strongest film performances of her already breath-taking career. Cinematic Masterpiece.
No one makes films like Claire Denis. Watching her work is like discovering cinema all over again -- baffling, beautiful, indescribable. Its hard to wrap one's head around a film like this because it is so different than what we normally see in movies. And not in a superficial way. This is narrative arthouse cinema, but the way Denis tells the tale, the way the editing functions, the implications of the images and the nuance of its style -- all are vastly revolutionary innovations for the artform.
I'm probably underrating this a bit, but I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.
The film was inspired by Doris Lessing's The Grass is Singing but the story was significantly reworked by Denis to incorporate contemporary events. The storyline is jagged because the film has been oddly edited by Denis for flashback effect; unfortunately the audience does not see the interrelationships that Denis expected us to see.
Definitely an IFC film which leaves you asking WHY oh WHY? Braquo's Nicolas Duvauchelle makes an appearance as the "sluggish" son who just went nuts. And Christopher Lambert speaks French. Is about it for me.