A supple, silly and visually accomplished meditation on fleeting power versus simple joys, "Autumn Gardens" is a nearly wordless series of sequence shots peopled with off-kilter characters going about their business. Calculatedly free-form opus should alight in select arthouse berths.

Hardly anybody today can choreograph minimalist schtick quite as well as Gaul-based Georgian, Otar Iosseliani. A supple, silly and visually accomplished meditation on fleeting power versus simple joys, “Gardens in Autumn” is a nearly wordless series of sequence shots peopled with off-kilter characters going about their business. Calculatedly free-form opus should alight in select arthouse berths.

Nominal tale of a French government minister (Severin Blanchet) who resigns, trading his pricey mistress, resplendent office and lavish perks for life in a glorified squat, unfolds at a snail’s pace, but the snail has a sly sense of humor. Helmer has a wealth of Jacques Tati-like gags up his rumpled sleeve — among them the delectably goofy choice of vet thesp Michel Piccoli as the deposed minister’s dowdy but resourceful mother. Brimming with arresting faces and ethnic diversity, low-key cast meanders in and out of situations that quirkily evoke the pleasures and pitfalls of modern life and the expedient reciprocity of political dealings. Guns, exotic wild animals, clandestine workers, an impromptu gin joint and the Luxembourg Gardens are all tossed into the narrative blender to casually jubilant effect.

Gardens in Autumn

France - Italy - Russia

Production

A Les Films du Losange release of a Pierre Grise Prods. presentation of a Pierre Grise Prods. (France)/ Cinemaundici (Italy)/Cinema Without Fronetiers LLC (Russia) co-production with participation of FMB2 Films, CNC, Canal Plus, TPS Star and with support from Eurimages, MEDIA. (International sales: Les Films du Losange, Paris.) Produced by Martine Marignac, Maurice Tinchant. Directed, written by Otar Iosseliani.

Crew

Camera (color), William Lubtschansky; editors, Ewa Lenkievicz, Iosseliani; music, Nicolas Zourabichvili; production designer, Manu de Chauvigny; costume designer, Maria Ramedhan-Levi. Reviewed at Saint-Germain-des-Pres Cinema, Paris, Sept. 13, 2006. (Also in Rome, New York film festivals.) French dialogue. Running time: 120 MIN.

With

Severin Blanchet, Michel Piccoli, Muriel Motte, Pascal Vincent, Uly Lavina, Denis Lambert, Jacynthe Jacquet, Moonha N'Diaye, Salome Bedine-Mkheidze, Mathias Jung, Christian Griot, Albert Mendy, Manu De Chauvigny, Jean Douchet, Otar Iosseliani.
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