Thursday, April 12th, 2012


There is bleak, and then there is Armenia. It was that  first country to secede when the USSR
broke up, and although it gained independence, rural Armenia kept its poverty.  In the south, the land is a blanket of slow
each long harsh winter where the daily temperature hovers between -5 and -10C.
The opening scene of the movie shows an old man on a bed being
pulled across the rough icy terrain.  He
is heading for a funeral.  It is a
bizarre and somewhat outlandish sight, but it neatly sets the tone about this
close look at the comings and goings of this small isolated village.  At the centre of the story is Hamo, a
grizzly old ex-soldier who every day takes the bus to visit his wife’s grave
when he sits for hours either just staring out into the desolate hinterland or
whining about his embarrassing sons.  On
the bus he keeps running into Nina who is making the daily trip to visit her
late husband and he notices that she struggles to find the few coins to pay the
fare.  One day, even though Hamo is
desperately broke, he pays her fare and they eventually they start
talking.  It may be the bitterly cold or
the Armenian culture, but they don’t actually rush into things.
Nina works in a roadside bar, which sells lemon vodka, but it
seems to be situated a long way from any passing traffic and obviously from any
customers.  Neither she or Hamo seem to
have a lot going for them, but they sense that maybe a wee romance, albeit a
slow plodding one would just lift them sufficiently to make life a wee bit more
bearable. Now there is no soviet support system the entire impoverished village
struggles to survive. Everyone continually struggles just to do no more than exist.
There is a wonderful ridiculous scene where hard-up Hamo tries to sell his
wardrobe. that he carries on his back along the road, to some haggling strangers.
I guess there is no real plot to this story, which culminates
in the wedding of Nina’s granddaughter, but there is something extremely
engaging in watching this slice of life which seems both mundane and
absurd.  There was definitely more than a nod to
the style of eccentric Finnish  auteur Aki
and I just couldn’t help thinking that when Nina and Hamo are the only
passengers on the bus as they sat behind each other in silence that I was
watching a scene from a Beckett play. 
One of the funnier ones.
Credit where it is due, and in this case it goes to the
wonderful old actor Romen Avinian who as Hamo made the whole thing the wee gem
that it was. And to Hiner Saleem the filmmaker who gave us such a wonderful
visual to his native land.
To me bizarre is good, and in even this case, so is
bleak.  This is the sort of movie that
one may not shout about but its refreshingly different (and really good) that
it is worth the effort to seek it out.  It’s
from 2004 so it should be available on DVD now wherever you live.  Although maybe not Armenia.  Yet.


Posted by queerguru  at  23:44


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