Our first LNKarno competition title. I’ve seen Iosseliani’s name around now and then, ever since first learning about him with a film still of a stork from Adieu, plancher des vaches! in a magazine over a decade ago. He’s a fest regular who I’ve never noticed out in the indie-commercial film world – The Ross, Plaza, Tara, Landmark, Alamo, Videodrome, Criterion sort of places – an old dude, taught by Dovzhenko, working for sixty-some years.
From a period execution scene to the title, then a battle, rapey soldiers, a mass baptism, a pickpocket gang then a drunk flattened by a steamroller like a cartoon, it seems the movie’s gonna be all over the place. But it soon settles down in a central location, with apartment concierge (and arms dealer) Rufus, his skull-collecting friend, a down-and-out baron, a bickering couple – it’s kind of a light magical comedy darkened by memory of the execution from the intro (it reminds us, with images of guillotines and severed heads). And of course I’m regretting that my first Iosseliani movie isn’t the one with storks, and then Rufus wanders into a secret garden full of every kind of bird.
A timid man resorts to dirty tricks to get a cute girl to talk with him. Pierre Etaix is in there somewhere, and as per French law, Mathieu Amalric has a role, hand-building a stone house out in a field. The production has rented a wind machine and is determined to get its money’s worth. Jump cuts and trick editing – it all sounds more scattered than it is, the bulk of it maintaining a consistent tone, dignified and upbeat despite the breakups and evictions.
Jonathan Romney in Film Comment:
Winter Song is the sort of rambling, multi-stranded crazily populous ensemble frieze that he has specialized in since moving from Georgia to France for 1984’s Favorites of the Moon… at times it resembles less any familiar form of cinema than it does a sort of sprawling, melancholic circus performance … It’s a world of horror and absurdity, where war is always being waged underneath the surface of civilization. But it also reveals a constant background hum, a sort of laconic joyousness in which the human folly and the melancholy of mortality are at least mitigated by friendship, drink, and the pleasures of close harmony singing, and the redemptive, civilizing poetry of a neatly executed sight gag.