Notes From Hairenik
The 5th Annual Golden Apricot Film Festival has now come to a close unfortunately. I saw some great films, many of which I would never have had the opportunity to view on the silver screen. One great film which closed the festival and was among the best shown during the last seven days is called "Adoration," written and directed by Atom Egoyan. I am a fan of his work and have been since I saw "The Adjuster" in the early 1990s. This film ranked as high as his masterpiece, "The Sweet Hereafter," which was released nearly 10 years ago.

The film focuses on a teenager named Simon, played by Devon Bostick, who as a class assignment writes a confession intended to be translated into French about the fate of his deceased parents. Simon is cared for by his uncle Tom, perhaps the most complex character in the film brilliantly portrayed by Scott Speedman, who is haunted by bad memories of his dead father. Simon's teacher named Sabine--a bizarre, intrusive woman (played by Egoyan's wife Arsinee Khanjian in perhaps her best role to date) who behaves more like a private investigator, often in disguise, and unbashfully plays with Tom's psyche--encourages him to embellish on the story, even though he admits to her that it is fictionalized. The story claims that Simon's father intended to be a suicide bomber and sent his mother to Israel to visit her in-laws with a bomb concealed in her carry-on bag. He begins to discuss the story in online video chat rooms with friends, and eventually one of them tells her mother about it, resulting in a chain reaction of countless people scattered across the Web debating about the impact of self-proclaimed martyrs on society who die for a religious or spiritual cause or, in this case, those who chickened-out. Simon is pulled deeper and deeper into his past, enduring scathing accusations against his father made by his grandfather on his deathbed, and all the while wrestling with separating fact from fiction. As the film progresses in its criss-crossing fashion interweaving past and future isolated moments, a typical editing technique in Egoyan's work, it is revealed that Simon's father, a violin restorer in reality, accidentally crashed his car in a head-on collision with a transport truck several years beforehand, instantly killing both his parents in the process after they left his grandfather's lakeside home in haste as a result of a bitter argument. By the end of the film it becomes clear that Sabine's fascination with the events of Simon's past is linked to his father, who was previously married to her, and she knew the truth regarding the circumstances of the car accident all along. She confesses to Tom that she wishes to be a part of Simon's life although her intrusion in the end causes some psychological damage.

"Adoration" is in my opinion the most psychologically riveting work that I have seen by Egoyan thus far. The intensity of the dialog and compelling scenarios between characters who are for the most part always portrayed as being in psychological conflict with one another are very strong here. The music score composed by Mychael Danna, who has worked with the filmmaker on other projects, is simply gorgeous. Egoyan's recurring, rather obsessive fascination with live video as the primary projector of a character's soul is put to superb, unprecedented use in this film during the chat room scenes. I cannot recall a more rewarding experience coming away from an Egoyan film come to think of it, even though "The Sweet Hereafter" and even "Exotica" also left strong impressions on me in the theater. This movie was just released but I am unaware whether it has secured international distribution as of yet although the film was produced in Canada as are all his films. In any case, it is a very fine film and a mandatory must-see for any fan of Egoyan's voyeuristic work.

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On a totally unrelated note but definitely worth mentioning, before the film started I met some friends in a cafe situated in the lobby of the Moscow Cinema, where the film was screened. As soon as I sat down a waitress approached me, and assuming that she was there to take my order I asked for a beer. Very politely she told me that people wearing shorts were not allowed to sit in the cafe, and when I asked her rather surprised whether she was kicking me out, she verified that she was with a lovely, caring smile, which I found to be absolutely surreal. The cafe is called Jazzve, and the theater lobby is one of several locations of the franchise found throughout central Yerevan and now, even Los Angeles. I told her just as subtly that I intended to never visit that or any one of the other Jazzve establishments again. She seemed to care less, again with a smile, so I went to the outdoor cafe just outside the theater, which has excellent service by comparison and always seems to have ice-cold beer anyway. My friends follow suit after expressing some dissatisfaction and even tricked me into believing that I had to go home to change so that I could enter the actual theater--they stopped me before I got up from the table to run off. In any case, for those male readers who live in Yerevan or will be visiting soon, make sure you go out into the city wearing pants--jeans seem to be acceptable in my experience as I have never been turned away for wearing them, at least not yet. Although this may be a request that is unlikely to be heeded, I recommend staying clear away from any Jazzve cafe that you see, including the outdoor one near the Opera House. Once I was told when visiting there last year that I was not going to be served a sandwich because it was just starting to rain and there was a very short walk from the kitchen to the table without the protection of the cafe's canopy. They did bring it out finally but only after I insisted, not to mention the fact that I was hungry and had placed an order. Another time while there with a bunch of friends we were served hot bottles of beer--no exaggeration. They had not been refrigerated and were still in their crate apparently. What I want to say basically is that if you really want to go to that Jazzve location, make sure it's not raining unless you like to make a fuss in public places about being served what you expect, because in Jazzve they try to give you want they want. The old, fast food-oriented expression "Have it your way" is not valid there. Actually it's not valid in quite a few places.

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