Revanche

Revanche (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Götz Spielmann
viewed: 03/30/10

This Austrian drama has the notable bearing of having its DVD release appear on the Criterion Collection imprint (or however you call it).  Criterion is the Jannus Films now DVD group, the company that introduced “world cinema” to the US in the 20th century and is still helping to define and release not only some of the best world cinema, but some of the best DVD packaging around.  Mostly, they turn their gaze backwards toward the catalog of the 20th century’s most significant films of “world cinema” (in other words, foreign film, but certainly not just limited to that.)

While there is probably a seriously interesting study of Jannus and their influence on what is considered important cinema (even to this day), there is perhaps, still an ongoing and carried-on sensibility that is infused through Criterion.  In the better video stores and rental shops, many of them have a “Criterion Collection” section, for lack of a better way of catergorizing the broad spectrum of their release footprint.  Whatever you think, their choices are kind of hard to discredit, impeccable as they are, though we do have to wonder what has been omitted or just not picked up for whataver reasons.

Again, there is a lot of further potential discussion here, but I’ll leave it at that at the moment other than to situate the Revanche release.  The film received very positive reviews on its initial release, even garnering an Oscar nod.  But the thing about Criterion is that not many “new” films are released with such robust and adoring appreciation by the company.  While some cases include Wes Anderson and other directors who are perhaps adding to our collective sense of “world cinema” they also notably released a version of Michael Bay’s Armageddon (1998), which I’ve been curious as to the why’s of, though also not curious enough to try to figure out.

Revanche itself is really a drama, situated among characters of Austria’s present.  A low-level and largely unsuccessful criminal, who works at a brothel, gets a plan to rob a bank and run away with his beautiful Ukrainian prostitute love.  Things go awry and he is situated in the rural community of his grandfather’s farm, near the police officer against whom he seeks revenge and the officer’s caring, adultarous wife.

And the cinema is there.  The drama is there.  It’s moving, well-acted, well-filmed, not lacking in interest.  But its stature as “great cinema” versus other films that I’ve seen either from other European filmmakers or American one or Asian ones, does it really peek its head above the fold of greatness?  Obviously a lot of critics thought it was some seriously excellent stuff and apparently, so did some people at Criterion.

And it’s not to dispute that.  The film is rock-solid and interesting/potentially powerful in ways that could be very effecting for some.   That it didn’t move me to the extent that it could have, that maybe it was intended to, is that a criticism of the film or just a personal reaction?   I mean, in all of the world’s best cinema, there’s stuff I like and stuff I don’t like in the good, bad, and ugly of popular and critically significant cinema.

Anyways, I think that this sort of strange, less-inspired reaction has left me to reflect on the film and my response a bit more than normal, though without significant response.  Though, I suppose, this is my response, significant or not.  Revanche is indeed a good film and perhaps for some it will be as important as who knows what?  But for me, it was good, but not as moving or profound as I think it would ideally be.  But that…is just me.

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