Sunday, 22 August 2010

White Materials (2009)

Maria Vail
Claire Denis followed 35 Shots of Rum (2008) with another rather baffling film White Materials (2009). Filmed in the Cameroon and set in present day Africa, French born Maria Vail is attempting to keep the family’s coffee plantation working during a bloody civil war. Her workers have run off and she is having problems getting a new crew to harvest the coffee beans. Isabelle Huppert plays Maria an exasperatingly stubborn colonial mother, blind to the war and carnage that goes on around her, in fact a similar role to the one she played in her last film The Sea Wall (2008) right down to the useless son.

Rebel Boy Soldier
The ‘white materials’ in Maria’s life are her son Manuel (Nicolas Duvauchelle) eventually driven from his lethargic life style into violence when he goes native. Andre, played by Christopher Lambert (best known for his role as Conner MacLeod in the Highlander franchise) is trying to get rid of the plantation without actually informing his ex-wife. Also living in the unfinished house where they all reside is her father-in-law Henri, played by veteran actor Michel Subor, a strange character who does not seem to be in good health, a man who wanders around all day in a robe. To add to her problems Maria is hiding the rebel leader on her estate, known as The Boxer (Isaach de Bankole) he lies badly wounded and bleeding.

Not a particularly gratifying film left this viewer with a sense of frustration.

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