Saturday, April 03, 2010

The White Ribbon, plus a digression

Just got back from a screening of The White Ribbon, a film by Michael Haneke about a small village in Germany in the early 1910s. Strange, malicious events are happening in the town -- a horse trips on some invisible wire strung across a road, injuring its rider; a barn burns down; a child is tortured -- and no one knows who's doing these things, or why. The events of the movie seem like they're part of a whodunnit, but there's something else going on. Haneke exploits our natural curiosity about who would do such things, and instead seems to be saying that anyone might have. Some blame is laid at the feet of the town's children, but which ones? Could it be all of them?

It's a truly unnerving movie, and pretty much the antithesis of a crowd-pleaser.

I'm especially glad I got to see it projected in a theater; a local live theater, the Forum, is screening movies on certain weekends. A couple weeks ago, Kathy and I saw Crazy Heart there. We missed An Education, but were able to catch Coco Before Chanel a couple of months ago. I'm thrilled that they're doing this. For the past few years, I've seen most of the art-house type movies I've been interested in on DVD, where years ago I'd drive into Philly every other week to see something interesting. (In New York, I tend to take the opportunity to see something old at the film Forum rather than something new and unknown.)

Anyway, there are a few things I really appreciate about the Forum's film series. First, not all the movies they show are the exact ones I'd want to watch. Selecting every movie myself, in the Netflix queue, limits my capacity to be surprised by something, and to see movies outside of my usual genres. I was interested in Coco Before Chanel, but it never would have made its way to the top of the Netflix queue.

Second, it's destination viewing. The movies run for a weekend, and might be held over for a second. So there's really no putting off seeing the movie for a more convenient time, which then slips by. I might miss Shutter Island, because I figure it'll be around next week. But if I wanted to see The White Ribbon, I had to go tonight.

Third, it's a local theater, and I like putting my money back into my town.

And fourth, like I said: I used to go see movies like this all the time. And while I like a well-made big-budget movie as much as the next guy, independent and foreign films are usually so much more challenging. And I do like a challenge.



Greg! said...

Amen, brother.

I don't see nearly as many films as I'd like to, and nothing even remotely in the vicinity of the number I saw years ago. (Granted, I don't get paid to see movies these days, but still...)

Figserello said...

Dublin was much better served for Foreign / arthouse movies than where I am now. It had a huge population of young European students/workers for one thing. I had friends who would drag me along to films I'd never heard of, but I wa always glad I'd seen them, and they've stuck with me long after Hollywood escapist pablum has disappeared from my brain.

But my new role of Pater Familias doesn't allow me much time to see movies. I'm totally out of the loop. I don't even know what films are released these days.

Did see Crazy Heart though. What a great film.

Rob S. said...

Well, I'd recommend The White Ribbon to both of you -- and Haneke's earlier Cache and Funny Games, the latter of which has a moment which infuriates a lot of viewers, but I suspect would delight both of you guys.

And by the way -- Greg, meet Figs (not his real name, but I don't know if he uses it publicly). You guys have amazingly similar tastes, and would get on like gangbusters.

Figs said...

Greg shaves hamsters too?