|Index||4 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story takes place over one night, midsummer's night, where many people from different countries come to Latvia and strange magical things happen to them. An American on a mission takes a taxi-ride which leads him to love. Two football-loving firemen from Liverpool save each other. A Japanese cook loses his appetite for his insatiable lover. A Russian eel-merchant struggles to keep his head above water. A widowed poetess loses her husband and finds two lovers. "Midsummer Madness" is a comedy about everyone's right to individual happiness in an exotic environment, together with an almost romantic relationship between the human and animal world.
It's midsummer in Latvia, and everybody has gone mad. Although for most
of these characters, they are probably just as crazy any day of the
year. A group of British firemen are in search of the "magic fern"; two
brothers hatch a plan so those damn capitalists will stop raising gas
prices; a French woman picks up flirtatious men as she's on her way to
distribute her late husband's ashes; a sex-crazed stewardess is on the
prowl for Mr. Right Now; an American and his taxi driver are trying to
find his half-sister; and then there's a kangaroo...
This is a good film that is very funny and beautifully shot. The vivid colours and great use of candles, lights and fire in every scene balance out the dark of the shortest night of the year with the quirky characters perfectly. Has night time ever been so brilliantly captured in a film? I doubt it. It's the type of film that is just so pretty you don't want to look away despite the absurdities and randomness of the situations. They did all this with just a low budget and without being ostentatious like big Hollywood films.
I could have done with a few less characters (there's probably even a dozen that I have forgotten to mention), but the more that I got to see of them, the funnier they became. At the center is Curt, in an excellent performance by Orlando Wells reminiscent of Dallas Roberts, able to play the comedic straight man and bring a whole lot of sympathy and depth to a character that at first seems to be just a bitter and arrogant American. Not to be outdone is Gundars Abolins as Oskars, the funniest taxi driver you will ever meet.
"Midsummer Madness" falls a little short on its underlying theme of love and in actually defining all of the characters and their adventures. By the end, I really only liked two of the characters, enjoyed a handful more, but then forgot about the rest. It does, however, live up to the madness in its title and it fully delivers on the unity of all nations coming together in Latvia and in the promotion of its beautiful country. I want to go now, although I might steer clear of some of their parties and traditions.
First of all, about the sentence "where many people from different countries come to Lathuania". What kind of country is Lathuania? Maybe it is a new way of mixing two different countries (which though have things in common): Latvia and Lithunia. The events take place mostly in Latvia and only a little bit in Lithuania. I thought it was very important to say this as I am Latvian and do not like mixing up the two countries or even saying a wrong name of our country. Nothing personal, please. This movie for me as a Latvian was very exciting from the very first moment. I suppose it is more interesting for those who represent the nationalities involved in the movie, like Latvians, Lithuanians, Russians, English, Americans, Germans, Austrians, French and even Chinese (did I forgot anybody?). I liked the way Latvians and other nationalities were represented. Good humor, really!
Alexander Hahn's "Midsummer Madness" reminded me a bit of Jim
Jarmusch's "Mystery Train", with a bunch of people independently doing
similar things. In this case the story takes place in Latvia during the
celebration of summer solstice, or Jāņi in Latvian. Some of the
characters are Latvian citizens, some are travelers, but this
particular day holds some surprising experiences for everyone.
The movie is half focus on the characters' quirks and mishaps, half look at the Latvian countryside. When I went to Latvia I pretty much stayed in Riga, but the rest of the country looks beautiful. In one scene, the taxi driver tells the visitor that Latvian male names end in S (such as Gundars Āboliņ). Thanks to Wikipedia I've seen that when male names from other languages get written in Latvian, they add S on the end.
The movie itself is OK, not great. The best part is the focus on the relationships between the characters. We get to hear Latvian, English, French and Russian spoken. The cast includes Orlando Wells (Susannah York's son), Maria de Medeiros (Butch's wife in "Pulp Fiction") and Dominique Pinon (who always appears in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's movies). What a mixture for a celebration in the former Soviet republic. If I ever go back there - along with Estonia and Lithuania - I'll make sure to go to the countryside. Dievs, svētī Latviju!
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