Lundi Matin : France/Italy 2002 : Otar Iosseliani : 120 mins
At 68, Otar Iosseliani may well be the cinematic genius who somehow fell through history’s cracks, ending up marginalised, underrated, passed over. Many people, if they know him at all, probably think he’s Italian – he’s Georgian, though he’s been living and working in France since the early eighties: his first French feature was the dazzlingly freewheeling Favourites of the Moon (1984), which was his ‘international breakthrough’.
Having seen that movie, this movie, and having read reviews of his debut, April (made in 1961, banned by the Soviet authorities, and only shown in the US in 2001), I’d say his output has been remarkably consistent over the years, full of casual, deadpan, but magesterial comedies that positively demand careful, repeated viewing to pick up all the layers of nuance.
Newcomers may well be startled to stumble across such an adult, confident, director who knows exactly what he wants to say, and exactly how he wants to say it in words, images, and silences – even if that message turns out to be ‘modern life is rubbish’. Fiftysomething factory worker Vincent (in a typical Iosseliani touch, producer Jacques Bidou had never acted before) impulsively breaks free from his predictable 9-5 existence and heads first to Venice, then farther afield, before finally returning home.
Though there’s one showstopping, impeccably timed, unambiguously hilarious sequence featuring the director himself as a down-at-heel Venetian marquis, the humour is generally so unforced that inattentive viewers may take it all as serious drama, or even tragedy. Not that they’d necessarily be wrong: Lundi Matin works on several different levels – personal, political, psychological – without any sign of breaking sweat, steady in its own careful rhythms. You wonder what would happen if Iosseliani actually pushed himself for once.
1st March 2002
(seen Feb 14 02, Berlin Film Festival)
This film appeared in the Fipresci Selection 2001-2002 : click here for full list
by Neil Young
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