‘Chloe’ … not so much

On The Aisle

By Tony Macklin

“Chloe” is an atrocious movie. It’s artsy-fartsy-tartsy. A female voiceover at the beginning says, “I can become your unflinching dream.”

I flinched. Pretension does that to me. “Chloe” is contrived. It’s about bratty, self-absorbed people. And it makes the 96 minutes seem like 96 hours.

Chloe is the heavy-breathing tale of Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore) a gynecologist in Toronto, who suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) is being unfaithful. So, of course, she hires a young woman Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to flirt with her husband and see where it goes. Wouldn’t anyone?

The relationship between the two women evolves. It leads to lesbianism, an heirloom and the kitchen sink. Love is never having to say, “I make sense.” The script is full of talk-back-to-the-screen lines … Chloe asks Catherine, “Do you want me to stop?” Yes. Please, stop. “I want to get out of here.” Maybe that was just somebody in the theater who said that.

Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson has no idea of how people talk. The script is full of bad lines.

Chloe says to Catherine, “People like you walk into my life.”

Catherine says about her son, “I don’t know what bothers me more … he’s sleeping with her or he isn’t.” Make up your mind, Mom.

The son Michael (Max Thieriot), on a cell phone, says to his Dad, “I used to make you tell me that story over and over-how you met.” Sure, Michael, you didn’t want to hear about hockey. You wanted to hear about your Dad and Mom dating. “Over and over.” You little creep.

Wilson and Canadian director Atom Egoyan try to be daring with sensual scenes and explicit language, but that envelope was long ago pushed.

“Chloe” is a remake of the French film “Nathalie.” It was French sausage. Egoyan makes it into Canadian ham (Canadian for female body part).

The only fleeting credibility in the movie is presented by Liam Neeson. (Neeson’s wife Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident while he was in Toronto filming this movie, but he finished the movie.) Neeson plays a music professor. Intermittently he yells to perk up a fairly fatuous character.

Moore has another of her patented annoying roles. Her character is flighty and obsessed.

Seyfried disrobes and fondles as the mysterious Chloe.

A “surprise” denouement is awkward. Chloe is a guilty displeasure.

‘The White Ribbon’

“The White Ribbon” is an austere allegory about a farming village in Germany that can be interpreted as portending the future. In fact, it invites that interpretation.

“The White Ribbon” is set in 1913-14 and ends with the news of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, an event that precipitated World War I. Horror is to come.

The children in the village will be in their 20s and 30s when Germany embraces Hitler and Nazism. The children are harbingers of a terrible future. They will participate in World War II.

The village where the children live is controlled by authority. The land is owned and ruled by a baron (Ulrich Tukur) and the church is commanded by a harsh, strict pastor (Burghart Klaussner). Only the local teacher (Christian Friedel) seems open and kind, but he has no power.

The baroness (Ursina Lardi) says she hates the malice, envy, apathy and brutality of the environment.

There’s no anti-Semitism in the village, but the weak and vulnerable are abused. And the children are nearby when the abuse takes place. Many of the children are beautiful, with bright faces. Some very serious.

Director/screenwriter Michael Haneke chose these faces to emphasize the innocence under siege.

The village has several events — some called accidents — that unsettle the townspeople because they are vicious and unresolved. Fear evolves.

The children are susceptible to influence. One older child seems to exert particular influence. This especially portends the future.

Haneke released his German movie (subtitled) in black and white. It’s narrated by an old man (Ernst Jacobi), who was the teacher in the village. He tells of the mysterious happenings in the village and his pursuit of love with a young woman (Leonie Bernsch).

Haneke’s imagery is arresting. One of the major symbols he employs is doors. Violence and nastiness occur behind closed doors. Perversity, flogging and a suicide all happen behind closed doors. Open doors reveal light, but at the end of “The White Ribbon,” doors are locked.

Religious symbols abound. Lethal scissors make a cross, and the shadow of a cross on the wall introduces fire. The movie ends in a church that goes dark. It’s a meaningful image in a foreboding, provocative film.

Tony Macklin, a former college English and film professor, is still foraging for truth in literature and film, in Arkansas, Las Vegas and beyond.

Categories: Entertainment