Archive for August 29th, 2018

 © 2018 by James Clark

      Sometimes it pays to be ridiculously late. Years ago, I saw two or three of the films of Claire Denis, and  wrote them off (figuratively) as overwrought, Grand Guignol melodramas pertaining to the outrageous predations upon Africans. Failing to heed the well-known predilection of auteurs to sermonize bullshit about their efforts seeing eye-to-eye with politically correct dullards, I left that hidden and unbeknownst treasure to pursue the singularities of quite untrammeled sensibility within the wheelhouses of the likes of Wong Kar Wai, for instance (his, Happy Together [1997], recently posted).

Having also been a latecomer to the skills of Ingmar Bergman, there were notions about Denis’ extremities which began to make much more sense. Since her film, White Material (2010), is copiously woven with the cosmic elements to be seen in Bergman’s, The Seventh Seal (1957), that seems to be a good starting point. It is fearlessness, not salvation, being the essence of Bergman’s work; and it is fearlessness, not foreign aid, of the essence of Denis’ work. Therefore, our first step has to do with our protagonist, Maria, tempting the fates by refusing to get away from the collision of rebel and French colonial militia forces in mid-century Africa. At a road on her coffee plantation she is visited by a hovering French Army helicopter, from which the following one-way dialogue screams: “Madame Vial! The French Army is pulling out! We’re leaving! You’ll be completely cut off! Think it over, Madame Vial! Think of your family… We’re pulling out… You must leave immediately.” Madame Vial swishes away as best she can the reddish soil kicked up by the chopper, which resembles a dinosaur, especially its image as a shadow in flight (a fossil), a commotion whose time has passed in a peculiar way. The retreaters shower down many black containers with the words, “Survival Kit,” prominently inscribed. Maria, after lifting one up, tosses it away contemptuously. (more…)

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