Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Long Play: White Material
"White Material marshals its resources with great intelligence and visceral clout" Kevin Harley, Total Film
Isabelle Huppert stars in White Material
"**** Four stars" Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) will present French auteur Claire Denis' latest feature White Material (2009), lauded as a masterpiece of beguiling simplicity, for an extended season in January 2011.
Shot in Cameroon, the story takes place in an unnamed country of Africa fractured by colonialism and civil war. Many locals have deserted the land as rebels, many of them children, terrorise those who stay.
The film follows Maria Vial (often quite literally with a handheld camera recording even the subtlest of actions) a coffee plantation matriarch who fails to acknowledge the seriousness of the violence and corruption surrounding her, soon to embroil her and her family in a bloody conflict. As Maria and her family await the inevitable, the tensions in their personal relationships, and in their relations with the African community, become exposed.
Maria is expertly played by acclaimed French actress Isabelle Huppert. Denis marshals her ensemble cast with aplomb, but it is Huppert's performance as Maria that drives the suspense. Maria is tough and determined yet somewhat naïve and dismissive to the realities in front of her.
Opening with flashbacks of soon-to-be meaningful scenes, Denis draws the viewer into an astonishing elliptical narrative. The writer-director engaged novelist and playwright Marie NDiaye to co-write White Material's minimalist screenplay. The film features the hallucinatory marriage of sound and vision that is the director's trademark, and is reliant on the audience drawing meaning from subtle yet deliberate movement and imagery. These images are infused with a magical score by The Tindersticks, Denis' long-time collaborators. The Guardian (UK) described the soundtrack as "a mournful, oppressive mood to set against the beauty of the soil and the jungle, as if the land itself were weeping."
For White Material, Denis returns to her childhood home, Africa, where she also set two of her earlier celebrated works; her first feature Chocolat (1988) and then Beau Travail (1999). Twenty years after her directorial debut, Denis won critical acclaim with 35 Shots of Rum (2008). White Material premiered at the Venice Film Festival and has screened in official selections in film festivals worldwide such as Toronto, Rio de Janeiro, London, Vienna, New York, Hong Kong and Sydney, such is Denis' regard as a filmmaker worldwide.
"Without doubt Claire Denis is one of the most inspired directors at work today and her latest effort is no exception," says ACMI Film Programmer Kristy Matheson. "White Material is a masterful cinematic experience full of adrenaline and suspense - completely unmissable!"
White Material screens exclusively at ACMI from Friday 14 January to Wednesday 2 Feburary, 2011. For more information, please visit: http://www.acmi.net.au/
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