Midsummer Madness (2007)
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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.
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!