Palatable: In Bloom

In Bloom (2013)
Directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Gross
Written by Nana Ekvtimishvili
Produced by Simon Gross, Marc Wächter, Guillaume de Seille, Nana Ekvtimishvili, Rémi Roy, Bénédicte Thomas, Jana Sardlishvili, Tsiako Abesadze
Starring Lika Babluani, Mariam Bokeria, Ana Nijaradze, Zurab Gogaladze, Data Zakareishvili, Berta Khapava, Tamar Bukhnikashvili, Temiko Chichinadze, Maiko Ninua, Endi Dzidzava, Zaza Salia, Sandro Shanshiashvili, Marina Janashia
While civil conflict flares in nearby districts, a blight of post-Soviet anomy concurs with the lovely efflorescence of two Tbilisian teens (Babluani, Bokeria) who with their families endure domestic violence, flagitious gangs and widespread privation. For a snapshot of urban Georgian life in the early '90s, this can't be bettered for vividity or poignance, portraying with spare style and roundly excellent performances an otherwise sane society weirdly wonted to barbarisms. Babluani's glowering gamine sifts through her imprisoned father's movables as debris chipped in familial abruption, Bokeria's bilious beauty struggles with unceasing parental hassles while she's courted by toughs (Gogaladze, Zakareishvili), and both find solace and ballast only in one another. Jostling bread lines queued for preciously rationed loaves and personal controversies feed ceaseless scuttlebutt, but amid the city's crumbling infrastructure, rampant delinquency, civil war, and adolescent gangs who commit abduction as prologue to matrimony and murder to settle niggling grudges, traditions persist in meat and music, dance and wassail, confirming once again that culture, not politics, binds and sustains.


Mediocre: On My Way

On My Way (2013)
Directed by Emmanuelle Bercot
Written by Emmanuelle Bercot, Jérôme Tonnerre
Produced by Olivier Delbosc, Marc Missonnier, Christine De Jekel
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Némo Schiffman, Gérard Garouste, Camille, Claude Gensac, Paul Hamy, Mylène Demongeot, Hafsia Herzi, Séréphin Ngakoutou Beninga

One would be in less danger
From the wiles of the stranger
If one's own kin and kith
Were more fun to be with.

--Ogden Nash, Family Court

Her iconic visage and surname have adorned innumerable advertisements; upon fairly few as this dull drama's theatrical posters and billboards has it been so conspicuously, necessarily engrossed, for she's prime among its few assets. When her relationship with a unfaithful lover sours simultaneous to the seizure of her eatery for arrearage, Deneuve's restaurateur and whilom Miss Brittany is opportunely at liberty to attend a reunion of regional rivals for the title of Miss France (c.'69), and escort her bedevillingly bratty grandson (Schiffman) to the rural residence of his gruff, agnatic grandfather (Garouste) while her dyspeptic daughter (Camille) pursues an internship. Bercot slavishly observes the bromidic burden and stale scenario of archetypically post-feminine road movies, in most of which a protagonist abandons her responsibilities and their collateral cumbers to embrace personal, imperative intangibles as she "finds herself." If her perdurable leading lady's unshakable credibility and idiosyncratically perfect performance buoy this production to the surface of mediocrity, it's still weighted there by the cliches and contrivances of its directress's bourgeois quasi-progressivism: every independently enterprising bachelor (Hamy, a smarmy chapman of smuggled cigarettes) is a lascivious sleazebag, yet cantankerous politicians of the mainstream left (Garouste's socialist mayoral candidate) are catches; the sole black stranger (Beninga, as an affable security guard) is nobly empathetic; crabby careerists unfit for motherhood aren't portrayed as negligent in their life's most significant undertaking, and their equally, obnoxiously waspish children are to be deemed adorable. A few scenes suit their star's charm, as when she confabulates with an elderly farmer who laboriously rolls her a cigarette during the first act, participates in a united photoshoot with her peers in the second, and enjoys romance and rapprochement in the third, but these vignettes seem intervallically inharmonious with the peeving postmodernism of the whole. Withal, Bercot's nepotism bears mixed results: her partner and DP, Guillaume Schiffman, lenses vividly idyllic scenery alfresco contributing to the pastoral ambience and beauty complementing her scanty story, but their son's unendurable as the miffing stripling. Naturally, Deneuve and the cast's contemporary boomers outshine their junior co-stars. Despite Bercot's basic capability, her script co-written with Tonnerre is comprised of fluff exceeding substance, plodding at the velocity of a crippled snail. Rufus Wainwright's maudlin whine and typically twee tunes by Sufjan Stevens and The Divine Comedy render two crucial scenes and conclusive credits plainly exquisite. This is only, scarcely recommended for Deneuve's devotees; even when it flails, she shines.