|The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear|
The mildest of recommendations for a pair of art-house films this weekend.
In "The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear," Georgian filmmaker Tinatin Gurchiani returns to her homeland (the former SSR, not the Peach State) and advertises an open call for 15- to 25-year-olds for a new movie. She asks those who come - including some below and above her age limits - to tell her about their lives, and selects several to follow home and film. The finished product consists of these interviews, the footage shot at the subjects' homes, and extended scenes of everyday Georgian life, presented without comment by Gurchiani.
I enjoyed the peek at life in Georgia, especially the capital of Tbilisi - it provides an interesting counterpoint to the beautiful mountain terrain Gael Garcia Bernal backpacked through in last year's "The Loneliest Planet" - and a late scene involving a young woman's confrontation of the mother who abandoned her as a child packs an emotional wallop. But the material is too disconnected - and not specific enough to its place - to generate much momentum. Gurchiani makes a conscious choice not to offer a point of view, but perhaps her film needed to be longer to achieve the immersive effect of a Frederick Wiseman.
There are those who hear the words "Audrey Tautou," "French country estate," and "the 1920s," and get in line for tickets to "Thérѐse" (those for whom Merchant-Ivory represented the height of cinematic achievement). There are those who hear the same words and run screaming in the other direction. You pretty much know who you are. I could tell you that the film is decorous, and languorous, and lovely to look at. I could tell you that Claude Miller's final film keeps its emotions on a low boil, and that Tautou - playing a feminist before her time, trapped in a marriage (to Gilles Lellouche) of friendship and family convenience - gives a muted and enigmatic performance that never fully lets us in her head. But you undoubtedly knew that too. So where do you fall?