When it comes to filmmakers who create pictures forever burned into your head after seeing them, Michael Haneke rivals Stanley Kubrick. I can't remember all the movies I've seen and immediately forgotten since first viewing 1997's Funny Games, which I just caught again over the holidays. (And a sick and twisted Christmas right back atcha!) Or how about Cache? And The Piano Teacher?
Now comes Haneke's Cannes prize winner, Golden Globe nominee and official German entry for the 82nd Academy Awards The White Ribbon, which opens Friday at Edwards Westpark 8 in Irvine. Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman calls it the filmmaker's "best ever."
Based on a Haneke screenplay, with the contribution of Jean-Claude Carrière, The White Ribbon stars Ulrich Tukur, Susanne Lothar and Christian Friedel, and is set in a village in Protestant northern Germany in 1913-14, the eve of World War I, that is overtaken by strange events. At the center of it all are children and teenagers of a choir run by the village schoolteacher, and their families: the baron, the steward, the pastor, the doctor, the midwife, the tenant farmers. Accidents occur and gradually take on the character of a punishment ritual, and the audience is left to wonder who is behind it all?
Hoberman calls it "as cold and creepy and secretly cheesy as any of Haneke's earlier films, if not quite as lofty. Instead of sermonizing, Haneke sets himself to honest craftsmanship. Detailed yet oblique, leisurely but compelling, perfectly cast and irreproachably acted, the movie has a seductively novelistic texture complete with a less-than-omniscient narrator hinting at a weighty historical thesis: It's Village of the Damned as re-imagined by Thomas Mann after studying August Sander's photographs of German types while perusing Wilhelm Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism."
Sounds like another memorable mindfuck to me!
You'll find your film card filling up Friday night, as that is also when the Laguna Beach Film Society (LBFS) kicks off a four-month documentary film series called "Sea Tales: The Truth of the Ocean in Film." Starting things off at 7 p.m. in the Forum Theater on the Festival of the Arts grounds is The End of the Line, the 2009 doc from Rupert Murray that explores whether the ocean's fish are being depleted for the love of sushi.
Presented the second Friday night of each month through April 9, the series also includes:
Feb. 12: Sea of Darkness, Michael Oblowitz's dark tale of paradise and surfing in Indonesia;
March 12: Dolphins, Laguna Beach 3-D filmmaker Greg MacGillveray's award-winning film about the lives of today's Flippers and what they can teach us about the ocean;
April 9: Kansei Project, which is about the island of plastic trash floating 1,000 miles north of Hawaii and the efforts to clean it up.
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Tickets for each LBFS film are $15 at the door, but if you join the film society you get in free for those as well as first-run indie, foreign or premiere films screened the third Thursday of each month at the South Coast Cinema in Laguna Beach. (Those 7 p.m. shows are preceded by a free wine and hors d'oeuvres reception at 6 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Bank Community Room around the corner.) Contact JoAnne Story at (949) 494-8971 ext. 201 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more membership details.
Meanwhile, the collaboration between the Newport Beach Film Festival and Sage Hill School in Newport Coast continues with a free screening at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday of the uplifting 2008 documentary The World We Want, which is about the efforts of young people around the world to improve their individual communities. Filmmaker Patrick Davidson will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A with the audience. The flier for the event is below: