Friday, 13 February 2015

REVIEW - TANGERINES (ZAZA URUSHADZE)


There are more than just tangerines at stake in Zaza Urushadze's neat little drama, which at once both overplays and underplays its hand. Deploying all of his filmmaking strategies in unimaginative earnest, Urushadze carefully signals to the qualities of each in blunt, cumbersome fashion - procuring stock devices for stock purposes - whose principal purpose appears to be to function as easily digestible content. There is, though, a casual, simple grace to much of what Urushadze assembles. Humble photography captures the close, quiet beauty of the Abkhazian landscape, and performances have an honest, authentic timbre to them. The innate dramatic strength of these (barely) stylistic details and the fraught scenario rarely rises above the level of solid artistry, but there's comfort in being allowed to take in all that a film has to offer without any significant strain. One wishes that the filmmakers had displayed a little more strain on their part however. Tangerines is just familiarity after familiarity, with an inevitability to the action that unfolds precisely as convention dictates. Urushadze is too dismissive of his audience's ability to join any narrative dots, nor to enrich their experience of the narrative individually - he characterises his film by inserting trite character development details, then using them to hit safe, standard tonal beats. The situation in this corner of Europe is far more complex than such a treatment implies; that this situation bears its own natural complexities, regardless of how it is fashioned by any filmmaker, inventive or not, is Tangerines' key redeeming feature.