Dave's Rating:

5.0

The best film of 2010.

Who's In It: Isabelle Huppert, Christopher Lambert, Isaach De Bankole, Nicolas Duvauchelle, William Nadylam, Michel Subor

The Basics: In an unnamed African country deep in the throes of civil war, with child soldiers running around machete-and-pistol threatening everybody, the lone holdouts are a French woman (Isabelle Huppert) and her family. They are the "white material" the rebel radio DJs in the country taunt with deadlines and death threats. But she's determined to stay put on their run-down coffee plantation for harvest season even after all the other ex-pats have run. It's her right, after all, being a landowner propped up for two generations by the colonialist legacy of the country. And so even when everyone she knows is being killed, she hangs on....

What's The Deal: If you think you're going to get a simple anti-imperialism message from French director Claire Denis, you've got about seven other things coming. Her movies defy expectations all the way down the line, from the way she tells a story to her desire to provoke response. When she observes humanity it's with laboratory precision and she's absolutely unsparing. No one has her allegiance, not even the lost child soldiers on their gleefully furious rampages (unless you consider the scene where they devour looted snack cakes and drugs and all pass out together a sort of "look how innocent they seem while sleeping" moment). Sentimentalists will think Denis is cold-hearted and wonder why she won't even beg a little sympathy for her stunningly iron-willed heroine. But there's a difference between being tough-minded and being cruel; She's just the former rather than the latter.

Questions You'll Walk Away With: What's up with Huppert's character's countless blind spots? Why is her plantation such a dump in disrepair? Does she think she's Isak Dinesen? Scarlett O'Hara? How can she value coffee beans over her own life? Why is she so irrational? And you'll get to construct your own answers to those questions while still feeling grateful to witness Huppert's steely performance as one of the most flawed movie characters in recent history.

Most Chilling Line Of Dialogue, Directed To Huppert, Who Couldn't Care Less That She's Being Overtly Threatened: "Extreme blondness brings bad luck. It cries out to be pillaged. Blue eyes are troublesome..."

See Also: If you're up for a crash course in the films of one of the greatest living filmmakers we have, then go on the hunt for Nenette et Boni, Beau Travail, Trouble Every Day, Friday Night, The Intruder, 35 Shots of Rum and Chocolat (No, not the dopey one with Johnny Depp.)

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Comments (13)

Jackie - 11-19-2010 9:40 AM
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haven't seen it yet, but sounds racist to me. Especially the line about blondness crying out to be pillaged. Some internalized racism on the part of the speaker.

RM - 11-19-2010 9:41 AM
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Maybe 400 years of slavey and oppression takes a little getting over..

Allergic to Dumb - 11-19-2010 12:50 PM
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Re: "haven't seen it yet, but sounds racist to me" You are such an idiot. How do you manage to dress yourself in the morning?

Seriouslyy - 11-19-2010 8:21 PM
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Seriously? Those farmers came to anoyhrer country and claimed it. I don't condone the methods but Africans deserve to claim there land. The farmers were not put out because of their race. Their race is inconsequential, what if it were your ancestors?

From the LA Times - 11-21-2010 9:27 AM
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"A harvest of failure and bitterness: The South African government's efforts to redress the wrongs of apartheid by buying farms from willing white owners and giving them to blacks has been a failure..." http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-south-africa-farms-20101121,0,5731538.story

chris - 11-27-2010 5:43 AM
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shut up all of u its just a film idiots!

wow - 11-28-2010 2:10 PM
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"Maybe 400 years of slavey and oppression takes a little getting over" how about a civil war with as much american deaths as all other wars combines notice how i say deaths. but anyway its just a movie it has no relavence to life so stfu s'il vous plait. unless its about the movie movie kinda sounds good but I wont bother watching it.

Jake - 12-07-2010 12:54 PM
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Holy, best movie off 2010? This looks just plain boring and awful. This is exactly why I hate critics! Dave White, YOU ARE AN IDIOT!

Ted - 12-13-2010 5:03 PM
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"Sounds racist"? That's a pretty hefty (and simplistic) observation for someone who hasn't seen the movie. Jackie, your assignment is to watch the film and then see what you think. Jake, thank you for your careful and reasoned response. What I take away from this review is that the film doesn't go where one would assume it does. The defiant post-colonialist white plantation owner--heroine or oppressor? The civil war combatants--victims of child conscription or perpetrators? Sounds like Denis wants to shake us up in ways that we're not going to be able to predict before viewing the film. And isn't that what you want from cinema, literature or theater?

CHUCK OWENS - 12-18-2010 7:03 PM
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JESUS LOVES US INSPITE OF OURSELVES

Hannah - 12-31-2010 2:42 PM
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Looks like a good movie. I'm always looking for movies that appeal to my intellect. Unfortunately, the majority of movies made these days are mean't to appeal to those whose vocabulary is limited to words like "idiot". Thanks for the review!

Manish kumar - 1-08-2011 10:00 AM
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Dil ke dard dil todne wale kya jane pyar ke riwajo ko jabana kya jane

Jay - 1-16-2011 12:38 AM
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Has anyone who left a comment about the movie actually seen it? Anyone?

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