Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Try something different, you might like it

By Peter Bradshaw  /  THE GUARDIAN , London

Billy Wilder once said he wanted everything in his movies to be obvious, including the subtleties. That credo is the utter reverse of the one behind this characteristically elusive comedy of mid-life crisis from Otar Iosseliani. Here everything -- subtleties and obvious things alike -- happens on the same level of un-obviousness. Tiny deadpan visual jokes and moments of emotional tumult both seem to occupy the same modest amount of space on the screen.

A hardworking, middle-aged guy called Vincent (Jacques Bidou) lives in a bustling village. He's thoroughly bored by his factory job where nobody's allowed to smoke: the stubbing out of the fag in front of the defense de fumer sign is a daily moment of chagrin. So one day he goes off to Venice to smoke as much as he wants.

But nothing in this story is entirely clear; Vincent's unhappiness, his decision to leave, his feelings about Venice and about being away from his family -- they are on the vanishing point of perceptibility. Iosseliani uses none of the film-maker's conventional techniques to point up the narrative. No close-ups, no punchy chords on the soundtrack, nothing to make sure we know what's going on. And not much in the way of dialogue either: it's like a silent movie with words -- filmed mostly in long shot, the framing often cluttered.

There can't be many movies which don't vouchsafe a single clear look at the leading man's face. But something in the movie's gentleness and the profusion of eccentric, comic detail causes a pleasant glow, especially a cameo from Iosseliani as a Venetian nobleman. Baffling it may be, but this film induced a wash of tranquility and good humor in me. Try it.

Film Notes

Directed by: Otar Iosseliani

Starring: Anne Kravz-Tarnavsky, Arrigo Mozzo, Jacques Bidou

Running time: 120 minutes

Taiwan Release: today

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