Plantation Evacuation

7 Aug 2013: White Material (DVD, 2009, Claire Denis)

Strange and terrible things inexorably built toward but somehow – handheld cinematography and fairly rapid (doc-like) editing two possible factors – subtle and barely more than mundane, in a good way. Trouble Every Day shocks with its sudden explicitly gruesome acts; here such acts are more suggested than shown, in near-Bressonian fashion (a knife in close-up moves toward a body in one shot, followed by a cut to a close-up of the blood-trail or body aftermath, e.g.). Camera unceasingly shakier than I’ve come to like, as per the close-to-unchallenged trend in “independent” filmmaking, or maybe the compositional haphazardness just grates more following so soon after classic Kurosawa. Self-destructive death-driven white entrepreneurs make for more ready, heady metaphors, though Isabelle Huppert does well keeping Maria, the coffee-plantation-running holdout during the breakout of civil war in Cameroon, a human more than a symbol, as she does with her mother character in Ursula Meier’s Home. The story is worth telling and the African setting is worth showing but the filmmaking feels phoned-in somehow, perhaps to do with a lack of familiarity with her new DP, Yves Cape. Of course I could flip which parts of the sentence come before and after “but,” which I’m tempted to do because I liked the movie.

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