Thursday, July 10, 2014

Autumn Ball

Süggisball; drama, Estonia, 2007; D: Veiko Õunpuu, S: Rain Tolk, Taavi Eelmaa, Juhan Ulfsak, Tiina Tauraite, Marja Jakobson, Sulevi Peltola 

Tallinn during the Bolshevik occupation of Estonia. The story follows several characters living in a bleak apartment block: Mati is an aspiring, but unsuccessful writer who is yearning for his ex-wife... A barber, Augusti, talks to a little girl, Lotta, and gives her presents over the fence of the kindergarten, but is chased away by her mother, Laura, who thinks he is a paedophile. Laura on the other hand is a single mother who enjoys romantic soap operas, but is reclusive from men because of her violent, alcoholic ex-husband... Maurer, an architect, is estranged from his wife Ulvi, who has an affair with coatroom attendant Theo. He, on the other hand, is a sex addict, but that is undermined since women ignore him for his low social status.

"Autumn Ball" is one of the many popular 'multiple parallel storylines' films that appeared in the 00s after Inarritu's "Amores perros", yet, just as it is often the case with impersonators, it is only sporadically interesting, because its five stories are uneven: some are pretty good, while others are typical grey 'existential dramas' without any color. Director Veiko Ounpuu has inspiration only intermittently, which results in the fact that some plot points are throw away material, which is further aggravated by its overlong running time of over 120 minutes. However, its ambitious tone, great actors and honest depiction of Estonian (and human) society - both in its good and bad sides - are welcomed virtues, as well as a few refreshing, unusual scenes. Some of them are erotic (one character, a sex addict, shaves his chest, and then his penis before having sex with one woman, while the other watches from the kitchen since it is not "her turn" anymore), while others are even humorous (a coatroom attendant breaks the monotony of his work by dancing and humming Jackson's song "Beat It"). The movie is the strongest when it adds these small touches of vitality that break its 'grey' mood, since it is a quality and professional drama, yet a certain greater punchline of the mosaic at the end is not there.


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