The White Ribbon

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School’s back in session for cinema’s favorite finger-wagging professor, as writer-director Michael Haneke gives us his shock-cut thesis up front. A horse and its rider nose-dive over a trip wire with obvious digital assistance; the film then spends the next two and a half hours dissecting its implications. The setting is a pre--World War I Prussian estate, where a Baron (Ulrich Tukur) lords over a village of farmers. Strange happenings are afoot, vaguely terrorist in nature, which put a bit of a dent in the residents’ daily routines. But this doesn’t stop, say, the Protestant pastor from taking the lash to his disobedient children or the town doctor from molesting his daughter. All the better to support Haneke’s jerry-built allegory about the rise of fascism in the Austro-German character, which comes complete with an eye-rolling shout-out to the Archduke Ferdinand. The black-and-white visuals astonish, but it still plays like Peyton Place on the Rhine, literally drained of all color and with the melodrama performed monotone. Wednesday, Oct 7 at 6pm—Keith Uhlich

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New York Film Festival 2009

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