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Els de Davant

This is a strange, somber drama, derived from a book by Belgian writer Georges Simenon, set in a harbor town in Soviet Georgia in 1932. Mixture of intrigue and sex pulls its punches and never really jells, and the central character is hard to root for, making this 1992 Catalan production problematic.

With:
Adil Bey ... Juanjo Puigcorbe Sonia Koline ... Estelle Skornik John ... Ben Gazzara Nejla ... Carme Elias Fikret ... Gricha Tchernov Mme. Pendelli ... Ifka Zafirova M. Pendelli ... Boris Loukanov

This is a strange, somber drama, derived from a book by Belgian writer Georges Simenon, set in a harbor town in Soviet Georgia in 1932. Mixture of intrigue and sex pulls its punches and never really jells, and the central character is hard to root for, making this 1992 Catalan production problematic.

Juanjo Puigcorbe gives a morose performance as Adil Bey, a Turkish diplomat assigned as consul at the Black Sea city of Batum after the mysterious death of his predecessor. From his run-down office/apartment, he looks across the street into the window of an apartment housing a security cop, his wife and sister.

The sister, Sonia (Estelle Skornik), turns out to have been the secretary/mistress of Adil’s predecessor, and he’s soon lusting after the innocent-looking beauty himself. He also suspects he’s being poisoned, which may have been how his predecessor died.

Director Jesus Garay filmed this strange tale on location in Sofia, Bulgaria, which convincingly stands in for Batum; the film’s main asset is thehot, fetid atmosphere of this obscure town, where the only other diplomats are a pair of snobbish Italians and a Persian with a faithless wife.

Skornik is appealing as the somewhat mysterious woman from across the street, and Ben Gazzara registers in an odd role as a local official.

Production values are all very fine for this curious, ultimately disappointing item.

Els de Davant

Production: A Massa d'Or (Barcelona)-Le Sabre (Paris) co-production. (International sales: Revcom Intl., Paris.) Produced by Pierre Javaux, Isona Passola. Directed by Jesus Garay. Screenplay, Louis Gardel, from a book by Georges Simenon.

Crew: Camera (color), Carles Gusi; editor, Albena Katerinska; music, Beatrice Thiriet; production design, Llorenc Miquel; costumes, Patricia Marne; sound, Antonietta Georgieva. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (competing), Feb. 13, 1994. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: Adil Bey ... Juanjo Puigcorbe Sonia Koline ... Estelle Skornik John ... Ben Gazzara Nejla ... Carme Elias Fikret ... Gricha Tchernov Mme. Pendelli ... Ifka Zafirova M. Pendelli ... Boris Loukanov

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