It has been seven months since Michael Haneke's White Ribbon won the Palme d'Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It went on to receive a slew of other awards and nominations. But it is only being released for the first time in the U.S. today (Wednesday) in theaters in New York and Los Angeles in order to qualify for the biggest of all film prizes -- the Oscar. (It already is Germany's foreign-language entry). Film critics in those cities generally seem to agree that the film belongs on any best-film list of 2009. Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times considers White Ribbon "a culmination of this difficult director's brilliant career." Kyle Smith in the New York Post gives readers an example of Haneke's brilliance "Though no violence worse than a slap is ever shown being committed, The White Ribbon is so steeped in the awful that the proper response is a shudder." David Germain of the Associated Press calls it "a masterpiece, but a demanding one." And Richard Corliss in Time magazine writes that "In the serene pursuit of its corrosive vision, [it is] a thrilling corrective to standard holiday fare. Other movies don't even consider the enormity of a society's power to crush its people's best instincts. This one says Don't look away. Look here." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times has not reviewed the movie yet, but he does include it in his list of top films of 2009, calling it "infinitely tantalizing." But A.O. Scott of the New York Times dissents. At the end of the journey Haneke leads us on, he writes, "we arrive in a familiar place, to be lectured and scolded by a filmmaker whose rich craft disguises the poverty of his ideas." Scott says that Haneke presents the brutalized, demonic, pre-World War I children who appear in the film as the rudiments of Germany's Nazi population 20 years later. He writes "Forget about Weimar inflation and the Treaty of Versailles and whatever else you may have learned in school Nazism was caused by child abuse. Or maybe by the intrinsic sinfulness of human beings. "The White Ribbon" is a whodunit that offers a philosophically and esthetically unsatisfying answer everyone. Which is also to say no one."

30/12/2009