Notes From Hairenik
July 17, 2010
As is the case every year, due to my daytime work schedule I am able to see films being shown at the seventh annual Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan only in the evenings. The festival will unfortunately be wrapping up Sunday evening. Here’s a quick synopsis of the films—three of which were impressively projected from celluloid and not digital sources—I’ve seen so far:

“The Beekeeper,” starring Marcello Mastroianni (1986, dir. Theo Angelopoulos). This film is about a middle-aged man who quits his job as a teacher in rural Greece and leaves his home and wife behind to follow in the beekeeping traditions of his father and forefathers. Along the way he stumbles upon a chance meeting with a high-spirited, oversexed teenager and can’t shake her loose on his travels along the Greek coastline, making stops in villages to see friends and set his beehives in pastures. The cinematography is stunning, the acting is top-notch. Seems Marcello was actually speaking his lines in Greek, since it indeed sounded like his voice, although I can’t be sure of this. The ending was weird, which from personal experience viewing European films for well over 20 years was expected. Recommended.

“Venezzia” (2009, dir. Haik Gazarian). The story of this film, which was shown in the Poghosyan Gardens (a.k.a., Lover’s Park), is set during World War II in Venezuela, about an American communications specialist named Frank Moore who is on a mission to intercept radio messages that may be dubious. Within hours after he arrives there, he meets the wife of the local Captain who is hosting him and providing the equipment to undertake his responsibilities. The wife, Venezzia, naturally for any love story is drop-dead gorgeous, and Frank seems to spend most of his time hanging out with her instead of doing his job. The remainder of the film involves escapades in steamy romance, espionage and conflict, again typical of war-time love stories. Recommended.

“My Joy” (2010, dir. Sergei Loznitsa). “My Joy,” a joint German-Ukrainian-Dutch production, is mainly set in a God-forsaken region of rural Russia. A sensible truck driver who is determined to deliver his load gets sidetracked on a detour and loses his way. Eventually he his hijacked, hit across the head from behind with a log, and becomes a living zombie. What follows is 90 minutes of nightmarish scenes from the past and present leading up to random, senseless killings. Despite that the cinematography, set design and the contrasting colors were marvelous throughout, it ranks as one of the most horrific films I have ever seen. The movie even starts with a scene of a murder having already been committed, the body thrown into a ditch, then covered in cement and buried under landfill. The message I came away with was that Russians living in remote parts of Russia can be cruel, greedy, homicidal maniacs. I left the theater wanting to tear out the few hairs left on my head, in high distress (a half-liter bottle of ice-cold Pilsner Urquell took the edge off immediately). Not recommended.

“Cold Fever” (1995, dir. Fridrik Thor Fridriksson). This story is about a young Japanese businessman on a mission to find a specific river in an isolated patch of Iceland where his parents perished during a visit. The storyline is witty, the characters quirky (Lily Taylor, one of the goofiest, eccentric actresses in cinema today had a supporting role), and the photography of the majestic frozen countryside absolutely stunning. The film also presented a fascinating glimpse into Icelandic culture, bizarre cuisine and its cheery, at times aloof people, which I am assuming is partly accurate since the filmmaker is a native of Reykjavik. “Cold Fever” is a short, but wonderful, touching film. Highly recommended.

I hope to see more films this weekend if time permits.

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Blogger Ani said...
Thanks for the update, Christian! Speaking of films from Iceland, this is a terrific one from a couple of years ago and definitely worth seeking out: "Jar City" The cuisine is pretty bizarre, isn't it? :)