Alright, alright: last post about “The White Ribbon,” I promise. Haneke’s film, about which I’ve written a little too much (or not enough?), just began a run of indeterminate length at ye ol’ Orpheum on Friday. At the moment, the Orpheum’s menu of films is almost as tough to beat as its happy hour deal; if you’re in a less-than-grave mood, you can see “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” instead. Now if only they’d get their mitts on “Shutter Island” (and I expect that they will), I’d feel less guilty about missing out on yet another much-discussed recent release.
Posts Tagged ‘Michael Haneke’
The BH’s Tony Lewis reviews “The White Ribbon” in today’s paper, and though he complains that some of the film’s most intriguing narrative threads “suffer from unnecessarily long, drawn-out pacing” (how much Haneke have you seen, Tony? “Glacial” is the man’s middle-name), he seems to have dug the overall product.
Yet I’m confused by Tony’s notion that Haneke is overly obsessed with conveying a message, one that Tony thinks “isn’t always clear.” The primary knock against “The White Ribbon” when it was first distributed in the U.S. was that the film’s arguments—and Tony’s quite right to say that Haneke’s arguing a specific set of positions—are too straightforward, too obvious, too uncontroversial to anybody familiar with modern European history. Indeed, compared to the theses advanced by Haneke in films such as “The Seventh Continent,” “The White Ribbon” is an image of intellectual agreeableness.
I’m also not so sure that “The White Ribbon” “strives to highlight failures in society in order to deliver a social message,” as Tony puts it. Tony himself alludes to the film’s engaging style—its ice-cold surfaces, harsh geometry, eerily opaque shadows and flourishes of abrupt, almost inexplicable violence—which makes “The White Ribbon” as aesthetically intoxicating as it is intellectually fulfilling.
Here’s my own review of “The White Ribbon,” written way back in January. Hopefully the film will be out on DVD soonish.
As you might already know, Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” (which I reviewed for the Cardinal in January) is now playing at Sundance Cinemas. “The White Ribbon” is the most intellectually complete and has the most striking surfaces of any of Haneke’s films to date. The Isthmus’ Kenneth Burns, however, is less than impressed:
Watching, I got antsy. No one loves a creepy-villagers movie more than I do. Let’s hear it for the 1973 Wicker Man! But The White Ribbon is more in the disappointing vein of M. Night Shyamalan’s limp The Village. Other than a handful of genuinely weird sights, there’s just not enough of the macabre in The White Ribbon to sustain interest.
I’m not so sure that creepiness and appeals to the macabre were what Haneke was going for; “The White Ribbon,” far from being a horror film in the conventional sense, is a work of social psychology, though the analysand isn’t any one particular character in the narrative so much as it’s the historical milieu in which the characters are situated.
If “The White Ribbon” is indeed horrifying, it’s not because Haneke deliberately designed passages of the film to scare audiences shitless; a pop-out moment is nowhere near as terrifying as some of the film’s implications regarding the relationship between puritanical values and casual psychopathology—an evil more plausible and immediate than anything in your run-of-the-mill “creepy-villagers movie.”
My review of Michael Haneke’s latest, “The White Ribbon,” can now be accessed over at El Cardinale Diario. The Cliff’s Notes version of my thoughts: A superb though mostly miserable movie. Perhaps Haneke’s implicit thesis about the relationship between Puritanism and Nazism is slightly glib (though perhaps not), the film’s consistently intense (and punishing) aesthetics are more than enough to keep viewers enthralled for two-and-a-half hours.
You’ve gotta hand it to Haneke: the guy gets results. But never before has he achieved said results in the service of such a visually engaging piece of work. This surely would’ve made onto my list of favorites from 2009 had I actually seen it in 2009.
I understand that there’s an element of teasing in my reviewing a film that’s exclusively playing in NY at the moment, but “The White Ribbon” is a Sony Pictures Classics release, so there’s a distinct possibility that it’ll come to Madison sooner rather than later. Let’s hope so. I’m looking at you, Sundance and/or the Orpheum.
Fifty fillets of film, alphabetically ordered. Now I can finally get on with my life.
Perhaps this won’t mean much to those of you who aren’t, like yours truly, a dork for film criticism, but nevertheless: This morning the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman and the NY Times’ A.O. Scott weighed in on the latest film by Austrian director/stoic moralist Michael Haneke, the Palme d’Or-winning “The White Ribbon,” which is, as I mentioned yesterday, opening this afternoon at Manhattan’s Film Forum.
“The White Ribbon” is being distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, leading me to believe that it might make its way to Madison sometime within the next few months. I’m not hyping this film because of its Cannes-y credentials (those mean very little) or because I think Haneke is one of the most important artists currently working in the medium (I don’t); rather, my hope is that Madison audiences will get serious about demanding the opportunity to watch internationally renowned films on big silver screens in the capitol of the Badger State.
(Parenthetical P.S.: Hoberman is taking two months leave from writing for the Voice. Kind of a bummer. He’s one of my favorite writers and definitely a hero of mine as far as film critics are concerned. The next two months will give us ample opportunity to dig his reviews from the past decade, most of which can be accessed through Metacritic. It’s been a real pleasure devouring his work while researching my “favorite films of the 00s” list.)