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Archive for June 22nd, 2015

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by Ed Howard

Note: This review by Ed Howard marks the official launching of the ‘Top 83’ Childhood Films Countdown which will will run Monday through Friday until completion well into October.

Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon, his first German-language film since his original Funny Games from 1997, is a searing, enigmatic allegory, a depiction of horror and cruelty overtaking a small German town on the eve of World War I. The film is powerful and quietly moving, slowly building a sense of pervasive dread as the town’s routine business is disrupted by explosions of horrifying violence and brutality, by incidents that expose the everyday nastiness lurking beneath the rural calm that the town presents on its surface. What makes the film so effective as an allegory is that, as in Caché, Haneke withholds all easy answers and all resolutions; the film is a mystery with no solution, leaving its ultimate meaning to the viewer. It is also perhaps Haneke’s most emotionally rich film, built around a large cast of complex, ambiguous characters, people beaten down and made cruel by the harsh surroundings and morally fallow ground of the countryside.

The film is an angry indictment of the hypocrisy and violence that resides within these seemingly decent folks, many of whom are obvious symbolic stand-ins for various social institutions, all of them equally corrupt: the aristocracy, the proletariat, the church. The Pastor (Burghart Klauβner) might preach decency and goodness in mass every week, but with his own children he is a brutal disciplinarian who reacts to the slightest infraction with hands-on correction. When his oldest children Klara (Maria-Victoria Dragus) and Martin (Leonard Proxauf) are late for dinner one night, he responds by sending all the children to bed without dinner and delivering ritualistic whippings the next morning. He also marks the kids with the white ribbons of the title, which are symbols of purity and innocence to continually remind them of the qualities they should aspire to. This man of God is obsessed with his abstract values, but in putting them into practice he’s cruel and intractable, refusing to understand whatever’s going on behind his children’s blank, mysterious faces. The town doctor (Rainer Bock) is even worse, a nasty man with all kinds of secrets lurking within his home. He’s sexually abusing his young daughter, who he creepily insists looks just like his dead wife, even as he’s also having sex with his matronly midwife (Susanne Lothar), who he treats with contempt and outright cruelty, scorning her love. (more…)

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Pather-Panchali-006

by Sam Juliano

The real thing in terms of summer heat has descended on the metropolitan area for the past few weeks, but this is pretty much the report from many of our friends elsewhere.  With the rising temperatures comes barbecues, pool parties and weekend seashore respites, not to mention end-of-the-school-year graduations, retirement dinners and extended vacation plans.  That scenario is playing out in my neck of the woods, though here at Wonders in the Dark the excitement of another genre poll is building.

Today the long-awaited Childhood Films Countdown launches with an opening salvo from film, music and comic book writer extraordinaire Ed Howard.  The “Top 83” will continue on into October, running Monday through Friday, and there are well over a dozen contributors to the cause.  Though there were initially some issues broached in mild debates on the e mail chain of the countdown’s actual voters, the bottom line is that some very great reviews of some very great films will be upcoming.  There can be little dissension connected to the results, and as our very good friend David Schleicher has remarked: “This countdown has the potential of being the best ever.”  Site readers and lurkers are urged to follow the countdown and if possible to comment on what is sure to be a fabulous collection of reviews. (more…)

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