‘White’ diamond in Venice

Posted by · 4:02 am · September 6th, 2009

Isabelle Huppert in White MaterialGood festival vibes are traveling through both sides of the Atlantic this weekend, it seems. Just as Kris lost his heart to a movie in Telluride yesterday, so, on this bright Venice morning, did I.

It’s a beautiful thing when faith is rewarded. I had already pegged Claire Denis’s “White Material” as my most anticipated film of the festival, and was duly met with an unalloyed masterpiece that outstrips its seen Competition rivals by such a wide margin it’s almost a little embarrassing.

A searing study of political and personal rebellion in West Africa, led by a premier-form Isabelle Huppert as a French plantation owner obstinately clinging to her land as order and sanity crumble around her, it’s plainly the strongest film in any Venice strand thus far. It also might just be the year’s finest to date.

I’m still a little too shivery from its impact to write it up in any kind of analytical detail — that must wait for tomorrow. indieWIRE critic Shane Danielsen said it best in our post-screening chat: “Five minutes in, you know this couldn’t be the work of anyone other than Denis … you can just feel you’re in a master’s hands.” Meanwhile, female filmmakers continue to rock the house this year.

Given that it’s a slow Sunday in terms of screenings, I’d already planned to take the afternoon off to view some of the Biennale exhibitions in Venice itself. (I’m particularly intrigued to see what artist-filmmakers Steve McQueen and Miranda July have come up with.) That turned out to be a good call — I want to linger on this stunner for a while before plunging back into the darkened theater.

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5 responses so far

  • 1 9-06-2009 at 5:26 am

    red_wine said...

    Wow! What did you walk into! There is currently very little info available about the movie apart from its playing Venice and Toronto. Looking forward to your words and more info about the movie. I don’t think it has a distributor yet.

  • 2 9-06-2009 at 9:39 am

    Lev Lewis said...

    Fantastic. Your praise has convinced me to purchase a ticket for this one at TIFF.

  • 3 9-06-2009 at 11:25 am

    Nick Davis said...

    How wonderful to hear. Eventually, we’ll get to see Rum in this country, and hopefully White Material soon after that.

  • 4 9-06-2009 at 11:55 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Lev: Great. I implore anyone at Toronto to do so.

    Nick: You guys haven’t got “Rum” yet? That needs to be rectified. It’s very nearly as great as this.

    I think you’ll love this one, though. It’s a prime example of what I think you (or was it some other smart person) once wrote was your favorite sub-genre: “stories about women who lie to themselves.” That’s always stuck in my mind.

  • 5 9-09-2009 at 7:50 am

    Nick Davis said...

    Rum has landed in the U.S. Huzzah!