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MOVIE REVIEW: White Material

Claire Denis directs a less-than-mouthwatering film

Isabelle Huppert as Maria Vial in "White Material."

Isabelle Huppert as Maria Vial in "White Material."

  • Isabelle Huppert as Maria Vial in "White Material."
  • Isabelle Huppert as Maria Vial in "White Material."
  • White Material
  • Isaach de Bankol as ?The Boxer? in "White Material."
  • Nicolas Duvauchelle as Manuel Vial in "White Material."
  • Isabelle Huppert as Maria Vial in "White Material."
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There’s civil conflict in an African country, and that has a woman (the talented Isabelle Huppert) fighting to save her family and coffee plantation.

We see the coffee beans being picked and roasted and stirred by laborers' feet. I’m guessing this won’t do for coffee what Sideways did for the wine industry.

Huppert’s husband is played by the equally talented Christopher Lambert.

This whole cauliflower in the sun story was done by director Claire Denis, and it just doesn’t work.

She’s a well-respected French director, who gave us the smashing debut film Chocolat. And the native boy in that film (Isaach De Bankole) has the role of a dying rebel soldier (and former boxer).

Denis builds the tension well, and there’s a disorienting vibe that works at times. It was also a pleasant surprise that no political statements were shoved down our throat.

I just found too many problems cropping up with this film.

I’m not sure why Huppert’s character could be so smart and resourceful, yet she’s making ridiculous decisions. It really makes it hard to have sympathy for her after the first 20 minutes.

I can’t figure out why her son goes from a lazy guy that wants to sleep in, go swimming and get tattoos to all of a sudden turning into De Niro from Taxi Driver. Sure, he was attacked by two young kids with machetes and guns, but still. I didn’t see enough to show why there was such a quick transformation.

This movie is only playing for another week at the Ken Cinema in North Park. I suggest you skip it and rent Out of Africa. Sure, they’re nothing alike. That’s why I recommend it.

The movie does remind me of Places in the Heart in some parts. I’d recommend that as a rental as well. Save your $11 on this one.

I’m giving it a D+.