Lorik Photo: Courtesy of Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival
Named after Laurence Olivier by his performer parents and nicknamed Lorik, monstrous egoist Laurence (co-writer/producer Michel Poghosyan) was born to the stage, and as a middle-aged actor, lives and breathes theatre, losing himself utterly in his roles to the frustration of the friends and family whom he constantly pushes away. As Lorik prepares a dramatic version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - the same play that his parents had, decades earlier, been due to première when they were killed in a car accident, leaving him a child orphan - an emerging rightist political party has the theatre shut down for renovation into its headquarters. After being pushed downstairs, Lorik has his own adventures in the Wonderland of Armenia's capital Yerevan, magically switching between the bodies of others - a neighbour, his aunt's cleaner, an ailing girl and the Party's leader and presidential candidate - and learning to empathise with and even improve the lives of others.
All the world's a stage in Alexey Zlobin's body-swap fantasy, in which a city undergoes renovation - perhaps only in the Lorik's mind - with class boundaries transcended, neo-fascist corruption exposed and even a life saved. This is undoubtedly a family film, offering fairy tale magical realism for the young (and young at heart) and political satire for everyone else. It also, through some very canny production design and postproduction magic, transforms a real city into a mad tea party. The results are unquestionably on the schmaltzy side, but also highly imaginative and full of ideas about the part(s) we all have to play in making a better society.
Erased Photo: Courtesy of PÖFF
"Everything will be fine," is an expression that becomes a leitmotif in Erased (Izbrisana), even as a paper trail mounts pointing in the opposite direction. Directed by Miha Mazzini and Dusan Joksimovic from Mazzini's novel of the same name, this Kafkaesque drama certainly begins with a vision of hope for the future: kindergarten teacher Ana (Judita Frankovic) in a taxi caressing her own heavily pregnant belly as she heads to the hospital to give birth. We briefly hear a news report about the breakup of former Yugoslavia into independent states, but the driver switches over to some easy jazz, hinting at an entire nation's wilful blindness to the realities all around. Once at the hospital, Ana finds herself in a downward spiral of trouble, as everything that she has taken for granted is quickly stripped away: her identity (both literal and metaphorical), her rights, her prospects and even her newborn daughter.
Required to show her ID at the hospital's reception, the ethnically Serbian and Croatian Ana discovers that she has become one of Slovenia's thousands of "Erased", paperless, disenfranchised and stateless within their own birthplace. As she struggles doggedly against a hostile bureaucracy, she also finds that there are limits to the sympathy of her colleagues, lovers and neighbours in a society that would prefer to toe the line and pretend that this problem does not exist. The difficulty here is accepting that a self-made bourgeoise like Ana could herself be caught so utterly unawares by this sweeping legislative change, but once it is accepted that she has been as oblivious as native Slovenians, she makes an effective cicerone through the nightmarish labyrinth of the Eraseds' alienation. The filmmaking is a little pedestrian, and one scene - in which Ana puts on a cheery face as she dances for her delighted former pupils - goes on far too long, but this is a compelling and not very well known story, which deals in part with its own invisibility in the media.
Deep Rivers Photo: Courtesy of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Deep Rivers (Glubokie reki)
Somewhere in the remote Caucasus, a father, his sons Muha and Bes, and Bes' wife Zaira live in exile apart from the local village - their exile, the result of a historical resentment that still bubbles under the surface - in cottage shored up to stop it being swept away by the river at its side. The brothers too are racing to complete their commercial woodchopping before the thaw of the coming spring sends the river in spate, making transport of the timber impossible. When the father is injured by a falling tree, the brothers, unwilling to employ the hostile and feckless locals, reluctantly accept help from their younger brother, summoned back from the city.
What follows is a study in stasis and flux, as Muha and Bes - bear-like, pugnacious, immovable - impose their bullying brand of masculinity on their younger brother, while he immediately wishes to flee once more to the less desperate environment of the metropolis. As it endlessly repeats its rituals of errant machismo, this clan is caught as much in its own entrenched dysfunction as in the cycle of the seasons, and seems doomed to a bleak future, whether from rising waters, vindictive, violent neighbours, or a pointed lack of any progeny (Bes' only son died as a child). Working under the aegis of Alexander Sokurov (Father And Son, The Sun, Alexandra), first-time writer/director Vladimir Bitokov offers a domestic saga which, while full of incident, is necessarily more a portrait than a narrative, as it follows a family with nowhere to go.
The World Is Yours (Le monde est à toi)
If the title of this comedy crime caper from director/co-writer Romain Gavras (Our Day Will Come, 2010) is suggestive of grand ambitions, its portly protagonist Farès (Karim Leklou) has set his sights on an altogether more modest dream. For he hopes to control the entirely legitimate distribution of "Mr Freeze" ice lollies in North Africa, and to move into his own small villa (with pool) in Spain with the hard-hustling object of his affections, Lamya (Oulaya Amamra). To raise the money to realise his vision, though, this reluctant small-time criminal must carry off one last, straightforward-seeming job, picking up a large consignment of hash from "the Scotsman" (Sam Spruell) for a young new kingpin, the posturing Scarface wannabe Poutine (Sofian Khammes). As things inevitably get complicated, Farès must contend with his meretricious girlfriend, his dim-witted partner-in-crime Henri (Vincent Cassel), a young abductee (Gabby Rose), different - but equally aggressive - gangs of Ethiopians, Scots and Zaireans, and most volatile of all, his own mother Danny (Isabelle Adjani), whose overbearing love for Farès is always being compromised by her pathological larceny.
The World Is Yours is a brassy, ballsy dash through multicultural France's (criminal) place in a world where indeed - as is claimed by the Illuminati conspiracies with which Henri becomes hilariously obsessed - everything is connected, albeit chaotically. For this is a tale of disorganised crime, where one rather unassuming man plots for an anonymous, above-board but below-the-radar existence in retirement from a rogues' gallery of characters less larger-than-life than they imagine. If the final image evokes the pool-side sweltering of Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast (2000), inevitably it scales this down too. For even if it's yours, it's a small world after all.
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- Read capsule reviews of As I Fall and Happiness Is A Warm Gun
- Read capsule reviews of Slam and Potential Victim
- Read capsule reviews of Lonesome Collectors, Cursed Seat, The Pact and The Fall Of The American Empire
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