Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. Armenia/Canada/Germany, 1993. Armenian National Cinematheque, Ego Film Arts, ZDF Television. Screenplay by Atom Egoyan. Cinematography by Norayr Kasper. Produced by Atom Egoyan. Film Editing by Atom Egoyan.
A photographer (Atom Egoyan, who also writes and directs) tours the beautiful Armenian countryside photographing churches for a calendar, enjoying the details of the buildings’ histories thanks to the accompaniment of his driver (Ashot Adamyan) and a translator (Arsinée Khanjian). Throughout the footage of their explorations are interspersed flashes ahead to audio conversations that speak to a break in a relationship, while a repeated motif of Egoyan at a series of dinners with women who leave the table to use his phone punctuate a story about culture and relationships. The themes it touches are only referenced in the broadest possible sense, as there is nothing in the information that comes from Adamyan (whose charisma Egoyan does not recognize enough to give him his due) that informs the viewer, nor does the personal relationship have enough of an effect on the project at hand. It’s a hands-off movie, good in theory but rarely in practice, and as a result is a chore to sit through, with the exception of any time that Khanjian’s gorgeous personality is on screen. Her ability to make natural interactions interesting is not enough given enough opportunity to create the level of conflict that the story so desperately needs.