Modern time Tbilisi, Georgia. Cops arrest jobless heroine addict Checkie, 45, and give him 2 days to introduce Ika, 16, to drugs, so that they could blackmail Ika's politician father. If Checkie agrees to cooperate he'll get paid, if not he'll go to jail. Checkie desperately needs money for his family and he agrees. Cops give him 2 days to set up everything. Checkie takes Ika to shoot up, but at the very last moment Checkie changes his mind.Written by
Social issue film that displays a generous amount of humour and surrealism, we have a new Iosseliani?
OK, so this was kind of cool for me because Street Days is a special film and I got to speak to the director afterwards and also got my ticket autographed. It's Levan's first feature film, he's a Georgian who went and lived and worked in New York for 7 years, before deciding to move back to Georgia permanently, after what I would describe as "finding his voice". So I asked him how influenced he had been by Georgian cinema, and he mentioned watching some Otar Iosseliani films, although he was very clear that he was only interested in the Georgian films he made, not the Parisian ones. For those of you who haven't found their way there yet, Georgian cinema is quite amazing, and has produced great directors (films), like Tenghiz Abuladze (Monanieba/Repentance), Otar Iosseliani (Kachagebi, tavi VII / Brigands, Chapter VII), and Giorgi Shenegelaya (Pirosmani). There's a clear flavour to it, Georgian directors like humour, but also peaceful images and surrealism, it's a very distinctly national cinema. Of course, as Levan pointed out, the standard domestic product that you won't see at film festivals or outside Georgia tends to feature a high quantity of nudity and such, so I'm strictly describing the art cinema of Georgia. Sergei Parajanov, I note was also born in Georgia, but to Armenian parents, and he travelled widely amongst what were then the Soviet satellite states. He did however make a great film in Georgian language, with a Georgian co-director, about Georgian history, the Legend of the Suram Fortress (Ambavi Suramis tsikhitsa)
Anyway, my wild expectations for Street Days beforehand were that in Levan Koguashvili Georgian cinema would find a successor to the aforementioned characters. A wild hype, but I'm happy to say that I think it's accurate. There is the calm surrealism here that is the flavour of Georgian art cinema. The movie was inspired by a real story about a junkie in Tblisi. Tblisi apparently has a problem with middle-aged heroin addicts, people who grow up in the Soviet era where life was more regimented, and who haven't been able to adjust.
Checkie, who was once a widely respected figure in the community has now turned to heroin and hangs around with a gang of addicts outside of his son's school. Life revolves around the next fix. As with directors such as John Ford, Koguashvili believes that "tragic stories should be told with humour", and though this movie is polemical, is addressing pressing modern issues in Tblisi society, it never makes you feel down in the dumps, not even slightly, this is in marked contrast to pusher films in Western society. He also avoided showing scenes of actual drug use, apparently he spoke to psychologists regarding this, and the idea is that this glamorises drug use. This was a refreshing perspective.
Checkie gets involved with some corrupt police who put him in between a rock and a hard place, and he has to find a moral way out. Street Days is a bit of a buddie movie too as he takes affluent teenager Icka under his wing as the movie develops.
I just wanted to underline the humour here as well, which is just great. At the start of the movie two addicts detour into a courtyard to vomit, the matrons of the courtyard then attempt to bully them into cleaning the vomit up, assaulting them with a broom, after they've run off, they then attempt to get the pursuant undercover police officer to clean the mess. The humour is something that should be flagged, because it's quite deadpan and you should be looking for it. A couple of moments of ultra-dark humour, which I won't spoil but will add here as aides-mémoir for myself and those who have watched the film involve a school show-and-tell with a difference and an overenthusiastic window-borne berating of a wayward son.
My favourite scene would be the dream sequence that Checkie has, which again I won't spoil. Some of the cinematography as well is quite clever, there's a scene where Checkie's face is shot through a pane of clear glass, whilst the other people present are shown without obstruction. It's old glass though and they didn't make the panes straight in those days, so it subtly warps his head, just a superb effect that shows his weariness and the way heroin has changed him.
I actually can't recommend this film more, and am delighted to see that the IMDb voters had sense for once and also went with Levan Koguashvili's superb feature debut. More to come please Levan!
17 of 19 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this