Director Otar Iosseliani has had a long career, most of the latter part of it while based in Paris (he’s been rather an outspoken critic of the Russians), and by this point you get the sense that he has a dense personal style that reflects mostly his own work and interests. In many respects this latest film reminds me of the first film of his I saw, Adieu, plancher des vaches (1999, often given in English as “Farewell, Home Sweet Home”). It is broadly-speaking a comedy of a deeply deadpan nature, owing more (as he said in a short spoken introduction at my screening) to Buster Keaton than Charlie Chaplin, though I find it also rather reminiscent of Jacques Tati’s Play Time, or late French-period Luis Buñuel, particularly Le Fantôme de la liberté. But that’s enough cinephiliac name-dropping. What you get is a loosely-connected series of little vignettes, as a large and interwoven group of characters interact in the same area of Paris, walking into and out of each others’ stories, all vaguely brought together around the skull of an 18th century aristocrat, guillotined in the opening sequence. Iosseliani’s characters manage to be both aristocratic and plebeian, sometimes at the same time, moving effortlessly (and at times somewhat confusingly) from the rubbish heaps and gutters to the highest society ballrooms. The central characters are two elderly men (Rufus, and Amiran Amiranashvili), constantly bickering and crossing one another, often to comic effect, so perhaps Samuel Beckett is another influence. If you don’t go into Iosseliani’s films, least of all this latest one, looking for a ‘story’ then you’ll find plenty to delight, little moments of comedy — cute dogs crossing the road by themselves, characters losing their hats in random and arbitrary ways, people unfazed by living and working in the same spaces — interspersed with grimness, with little to separate the two at times.
Director/Writer Otar Iosseliani ოთარ იოსელიანი; Cinematographer Julie Grunebaum; Starring Rufus, Amiran Amiranashvili ამირან ამირანაშვილი; Length 117 minutes.
Seen at Regent Street Cinema, London, Tuesday 6 October 2015.