White Material Review
Gary Couzens reviewed Artificial Eye’s standard definition DVD release of White Material for the Digital Fix in January so I’ll refer you to this LINK as his assessments pretty much match my own. As Gary points out this is very much a film about mood and atmosphere, one that is greatly enhanced by the excellent Tindersticks score. Interestingly, given its lack of context in terms of when and where exactly the film is set, White Material almost resembles a near-future dystopian piece of science fiction during its opening stages; all we have to grasp on are a succession of unsettling or violent images. Yet Claire Denis’ film remains firmly rooted thanks to its performances. As Gary noted, Isabelle Huppert is superb in the lead role, and there’s also satisfaction to be had in seeing Christophe Lambert working outside of his usual genre comfort zone. My rating is a little lower than the 9/10 gifted upon the film by Gary, though I concede that White Material having to live up to Denis’ previous feature, the excellent 35 Shots of Rum, plays its part in this.
White Material is getting the Criterion treatment in the US this coming April, though there is little reason why anyone would wish to pass up the Artificial Eye Blu-ray. If Criterion continue their current policy then their HD release will no doubt be region locked, yet here we find the disc encoded for all regions. The US offering will also provide a transfer approved by Denis and cinematographer Yves Cape, though there’s little reason to see that either would disapprove of the presentation here. The film retains its 2.40 aspect ratio, is taken from a pristine source and comes with a choice of multi-channel or stereo DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks and optional English subtitles. As well as being pristine, the image is also crystal clear and demonstrates superb contrast and colour levels. The latter is predominantly greens and browns, though when flashes of colour do enter proceedings they appear natural and true. Extras are limited to ten minutes worth of interview material Denis and Lambert (taken from the Cinemoi cable channel) and the theatrical trailer. However, given that the Criterion disc will add only a deleted scene, a brief doc on White Material’s festival debut and alternate interviews, there really seems to be little reason to choose one over the other.