Wonderful news! One of the best films of last year is new on Criterion - it arrives at Videomatica February 16. Here's a link to the original Soul Food post, and you can view a trailer (or order a copy) at Criterion. (Oh yeah - I think it's up for an Oscar. You know, the roots of my disinterest in the those statues can probably be traced back to Saturday afternoons in Calgary: "And now, that Oscar-winning rabbit..." Heck, if Bugs nabbed one of those, whatever it was, it must be something kind of silly, right?)
At Criterion you'll also find an insightful Armond White essay that points up the spiritual inflection of the film:
REVANCHE begins with a reflection of trees in a lake at twilight. They’re seen upside down—an image of nature reversed—yet the earth is eerily calm. This almost otherworldly illusion arouses a viewer’s awareness of perspective, which is then disturbed by the splash of an object tossed into the middle of the lake. Widening ripples shatter the impression of stillness, and a genuine sense of mystery sets in. Such an intimation of the supernatural typifies Austrian writer-director Götz Spielmann’s unique vision in this film. . . .
Spielmann’s arrival on the American film scene is exciting for the way Revanche opposes the contemporary trend toward dark pessimism with a vision that contemplates light and, conditionally, belief. At one point, a repentant character is asked, “What would your God say?” and she answers, “He’d understand.” . . .
Spielmann links the demimonde and upright society. The characters are seen not simply in their lowest, most desperate moments but at moral crossroads. . . . Details of physical and spiritual endurance show on Alex’s face and torso, in Susanne’s casual strength, Robert’s athleticism, Tamara’s erotic poise, and old Hausner’s joy at playing the accordion. . . .
In one superb shot, the camera follows behind Robert and Susanne as they drive down a wooded road: when the car veers off onto a tangent, the camera keeps going forward into the mystery of the natural environment. This happens twice in Revanche, conveying the inevitable, if not the otherworldly—a sense of a greater power or unseen force that Spielmann’s characters do not perceive but to which he makes the audience privy. The quality of immanence, not often featured in contemporary movies, enlarges this film’s bank heist concept and pushes it into the realm of art. . . .
Spielmann’s evocation of enigmatic phenomena recalls Carl Theodor Dreyer and the early films of Ingmar Bergman. Gschlacht photographs nature’s presence as profound, but it’s never made indifferent or a source of apathy; there’s a felt connection between mankind and the cosmos. . . .
Spielmann is interested in aspects of life that exceed simple comprehension. Fathoming the interconnections between disparate people, he emphasizes realistic perception and spiritual discovery. . . .
Spielmann uses his camera as a witness to the larger whole, to narrate our social and spiritual commonality—his animated camera movements and numinous imagery open up our limited awareness. An amazing aspect of Spielmann’s storytelling is the way it lets each character’s effort to control her or his own life reflect and speak for another’s—Susanne’s religious devotion recalls Tamara’s last-minute prayer, Alex’s grief parallels Robert’s regret. The emotional resonance of these depictions of perseverance and faithful nurturing suggests a godlike point of view. Revanche brings back to cinema a long-missing sense of belief. . . .