A beguiling balance of folksy sensibilities and tight plotting, “True Noon” spins an appealing yarn about a Russian emigre’s life in a village in Tajikstan. Made with the assistance of Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals fund, this charismatic effort eschews that funding body’s predilection for digital technology and offers a warm, if low-budget, 35mm experience. Pic’s sheer exoticism will make it a must for fests, but its persistent humor elevates it beyond mere film-festival tourism. Commercial prospects are slim.
As the Soviet Union collapses, Russian meteorologist Kirill Ivanovich (Yuri Nazarov, “Little Vera,” “The Mirror”) is stuck in the far-flung (and fictional) Tajik outpost of Safedobi. Though a much-loved and respected longtime resident, Kirill is keen to end his weather-bureau posting in the tiny village and reunite with his family.
Kirill works with Nilufar (Nashiba Sharipova), an independent young woman and mathematics wiz, and the sharpest of the local bunch. About to be married, Nilufar worries her father and betrothed’s traditional values may interfere with her ambition to be Kirill’s successor.
Rustic charm and small-town feuding provide entertainment as Kirill navigates his protege’s progress. Just as both marriage and job handover seem secure, crisis strikes in the form of Russian soldiers establishing a barbed-wire border that not only divides the town but also separates bride from groom.
Allegedly based on the division of Tajikistan from Uzbekistan in the wake of the Soviet collapse, the effortlessly charming script has a whiff of Powell & Pressburger’s easy magic as the villagers work around the comical (and sometimes deadly) implications of the Russian-imposed problem.
Helming is smartly framed with a direct simplicity, and the colorful, comforting lensing takes full advantage of some stunning landscapes. The mostly amateur thesps have an authentic verve, but it’s Russian vet Ivanovich’s compassionate perf that holds the proceedings together.
Delightful and sprightly soundtrack, employing folk instruments, is judiciously applied, and other ethnographic indulgences are kept in check.
Pic is being billed as the first feature made by the Tajik film industry in 18 years. Unlike movies by Tajik directors such as Djamshed Usmonov (“Angel on the Right”), “True Noon” isn’t a co-production, but it still received assistance from foreign funding bodies.