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Otar Iosseliani's Gardens in Autumn is about the transitoriness of political power and the necessity of enjoying a simple life; it takes a cynical view of socialism and mob rule, and seems to advocate living quietly and unpretentiously outside the bourgeois mainstream (though an apartment in the middle of Paris is a perk not to be sniffed at, if available), having plenty of girlfriends, drinking a lot, and cultivating a panoply of colorful eccentrics as your friends.
The main character, Vincent (Séverin Blanchet), is a French minister of something or other, with a spendthrift wife; mass demonstrations lead to his ouster, and he is happier without all his possessions and his powers and his ruinously acquisitive spouse.
Michael Piccoli is in drag very funnily and successfully as the main character's aging maman.
There are running themes. Certain animals, paintings and people constantly recur. Eet's all very surreal. Iosseliani is a Georgian (former USSR) but this movie reflects a mellow director besotted with French culture, a French sense of comedy, often sans paroles (without words, as in traditional French cartoons) and reminiscent of Jacques Tati's Monsieur Hulot pantomimes. Unfortunately, there are words, and that spoils things, as does the repetitiousness of the narrative.
There's much sweetness and mellowness here but ultimately it seems to have fumbled the ball in its satire, which Tati never did. For those not tuned in, almost interminably long at a full two hours. That it is remarkable for its consistency of vision justifies its inclusion in the selective New York Film Festival, but it will not prove the most memorable of the NYFF 2006 list.
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