Monday, October 19, 2015

Beautiful Conceit

Letters to Max (2014) - Baudelaire
 photo f37a5a8d-012a-456b-9e73-14fb0eaafdd6_zpsjdtl91ws.jpg
The film's initial conceit- using old fashioned snail mail (in blue and red edged airmail envelopes no less) to communicate with an old friend Max Gvinjia who is a diplomat in the Republic of Abkhazia, in the internet age, doesn't damper the loveliness of this essay/docudrama on national identity, collective memories/forgetfulness and cinematic inventiveness. After the fall of the USSR, Abkhazia, a small nation on the Black Sea bordering Georgia, fell short of declaring independence, fought a war against invading Georgia in 92-93 and won and still in a international diplomatic rigmarole to be recognized as a country (only a few nations recognize it as such). Only appearing in white text of his letter, Baudelaire wonders if his letters are actually finding their way to his long time friend living in a diplomatically non-existing country. In response, affable Max, a devorcé and father of 3, reads his letters and answers, then takes us on a tour of often beautiful scenery of Abkhazia. There are signs of war everywhere too - decaying buildings covered with vegetation, abandoned tanks and artillery, monument to the national heroes and such.

It is pretty apparent with all the western chain shops and cell phones that Abkhazia is just like any other developed Eastern European country, but through Baudelaire's honest and sometimes pointy questions, it's as if he is creating his imagined view of the country, steeped in nostalgic history (albeit recent). He admits that he might be asking the questions to himself since he doesn't know if the letters are getting to their destination. Max plays along, having personal/national triumphs and losses during the span of the film (was a Deputy Foreign Minister, celebrated independence declared by then Russian Prez. Medvedev, becomes a Foreign Minister then loses the post with the regime change).

Thoughtful, intriguing, relevant and intimate, Baudelaire (Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years Without Images) is doing something that really speaks to me in testing the boundaries of cinema.

No comments:

Post a Comment