Notes From Hairenik

The seventh anual Golden Apricot International Film Festival kicked off last night at Cinema Moscow on Abovian Street.

The festival premiered with Henri Verneuil classic film from 1991, "Mayrig," starring Omar Sharif and Claudia Cardinale, who is one of the most beautiful women that has ever graced European cinema, in the 1960s especially. Claudia was the honored guest last evening, a living legend who sparkled as she made her way across Charles Aznavour Square.

Claudia was accompanied by the director of the festival, Harutyun Khachatryan, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and the Mayor of Yerevan, Gagik Beglaryan, who probably doesn't even know who she is, but that's besides the point.

Naturally, entrance to this screening was by invitation only. I can't imagine how people actually got tickets, I am assuming through business or political connections.

The man in the middle of the above shot with the video camera is Atom Egoyan, the Canadian filmmaker of Armenian descent, who essentially is an unsung genius of modern cinema. Beside him barely visible is his wife and muse, actress Arsinee Khanjian.

This morning at 10:00 am we saw one of the first films of the festival, a Spanish film called "Woman Without Piano" directed by Javier Rebollo. It is a visual document taking place over a 24-hour span of a mildly eccentric middle-aged woman married to a taxi driver who works at home as a hair removal specialist. Bored of her daily routine, in the late evening after her husband goes to bed she dusts off an old black wig hidden in the back of an overhead closet and runs away from home. Throughout the rest of the film the viewer follows her around in the dark, first at a Madrid train station, then walking around town after the station is mysteriously evacuated. She meets a young guy who is on his way back to Poland where he needs to pay off an unpaid bank loan and serve a one-week jail sentence as a penalty. They aimlessly wander the streets, and get separated along the way before reuniting, the woman (who towards the end of the film is identified by the name Rosa) taking frequent breaks from her roaming by chain smoking and drinking snifters full of brandy. At one point they even share a hotel room together. Back at the station, when the Polish kid is mysteriously taken way as she observes from afar while buying peach juice, she decides to return home and persist a little longer. It was a film about intersecting lives, lonely souls trying to find a place in the world. There are no deep underlying messages, but there doesn't ever have to be in cinema. That is what's so magic about the visual medium.

Tonight I am off to see a Theo Angelopoulos film from 1986 called "The Beekeeper," starring Marcello Mastroianni. I have seen two other films by the director, namely "Ulysse's Gaze" and "Eternity and a Day." His films are rather long and can be a bit tedious, but they are strangely beautiful. Festival updates to come.

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