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Tuesday, May 03, 2005 

Vodka Lemon



Vodka Lemon is a surprisingly charming post-sovietic movie. I say surprisingly because Hiner Saleem is a Southern Kurd, but perhaps by having made his movies in Armenia he becomes at the end a local cineast. Far from Bahman Ghobadi's sentimental exuberance, Hiner Saleem works with a great restraint, and in a way extremely more risky in Vodka Lemon story, for his characters are, at first sight, less immediately attrative and touching than the beautiful and sad children in Turtles can fly. The heros on this movie are two widowed, who go regularly to moarn on the grave of their dead beloved. They begin to fell in love each other. But this white-haired love-story is not ridiculous, with any kind of insipid sentimentality like "Love is beautiful at all age" or "life goes on let's hope". No, the delicate progression of feelings is painted with a great subtlety, a refusal of heavy effects. Finally, the thaw of loneliness and mourning is especially shown to us through the thaw of the winter : love is a snowdrop which points timidly under meters of snow. Because the winter is omnipresent in this film : almost all the scenes are filmed in snow, heros walk in snow, converse outside in snow, fight each other in snow, marry each other in snow, forgive each other in snow. Vodka Lemon could also be entitled The Great Winter, like Ismaïl Kadaré's novel.




Like the Georgian movie Since Otar left , Hiner Saleem shows us too how the Soviet collapse left on the shore of poverty a lot of people. The old Hamo Hamo lives sparely with ten dollars of pension, and his dulcinea owes five dollars to the bus driver (I note that the currency of reference there seems to be the dollar). Quadragenarian try to survive with hazardous deals and more or less regular businesses in Central Asia, youths are more disoriented, between the disillusions of emigration and occasional prostitution, when playing music does not pay enough. Result: the son who lives in France, instead of sending money , ask it to his father ; the young pianist has to sell her piano. In that cold and long winter, days are marked by renouncement : television, cupboard, clothes, all disappears little by little, exchanged for dollars, which are exchanged for flowers and bus tickets, in the aim to continue the dialogue with the late people, and trying to prevent their burial under snow.




At the same time, this bald movie has some scenes of surrealist poetry which refuse to let crush people by the difficulty of life. Thus, the last object to be sold, (and which will not be sold), is a priori the less useful -in any case less useful than a cupboard -, but it leads Hamo and his new wife on the road of happiness. So the old man's romance contrasts strongly with the bitterness of the "arranged" and sad marriage of his grand-daughter.

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