Leisurely, poetical docu "Frescoes" captures everyday life in a contempo Armenia still struggling to recover from the equal-force disasters of a catastrophic late-'80s earthquake and subsequent independence from the defunct U.S.S.R.

Leisurely, poetical docu “Frescoes” captures everyday life in a contempo Armenia still struggling to recover from the equal-force disasters of a catastrophic late-’80s earthquake and subsequent independence from the defunct U.S.S.R. Vet cinematographer Alexander Gutman, a nonfiction director for the last decade, brings visual grace if middling overall engagement to this portrait. Fest play and ethnographic educational shelf life are signaled.

Gutman focuses on the midsized town of Giumn, where ruins, cracked walls and half-exposed buildings testify to the slow pace of post-quake reconstruction. Post-glasnost economic hardship is further underlined by preponderance of elderly, scrape-along citizens — presumably the young and able have moved to greener pastures. Open-air market transactions, a wedding, a funeral, water collection from a communal tap, and other such ordinary occurrences are recorded in handsome, mostly stationary-camera setups. Semblance of narrative surfaces in nominal-protag status accorded aging cemetery groundkeeper Garnik. At times, residents seem to hold conversations for the camera while pretending it’s not there; obnoxious school dropout Yaruzh, who hangs around the graveyard mostly to annoy Garnik, seems particularly overstimulated by the attention.

Frescoes

Russia-Germany

Production

A T & G Films and Atelier Intl. production. Produced, directed, edited by Alexander Gutman.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W), Nikolai Volkov, Alexander Burov, Gutman, Djivan Gasparyan. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Documentary), Jan. 25, 2003. Running time: 96 MIN.
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