An ambitious if obscure allegory whose protag endures increasingly bizarre trials.

A considerable switch from the more realistic ensemble drama of his debut feature, “Autumn Ball,” Estonian director Veiko Ounpuu’s “The Temptation of St. Tony” is an ambitious if obscure allegory whose protagonist endures a series of increasingly bizarre trials. Strikingly shot in B&W, the pic’s streaks of black comedy spark occasionally meandering progress. Destined to be strictly fest fare in most territories, “Temptation” could gain wider exposure as a specialized DVD release.

A Homeless Bob production in association with ATMO and Bronson Club. Produced by Katrin Kissa. Co-producers, Kristina Aberg, Jesse Fryckman, Taro Kaukomaa.

The tale’s arbitrary, sardonic nature is immediately apparent as middle-manager Tony (Taavi Eelmaa) marches in his father’s rural funeral procession, which barely pauses to gawk when a car rushes past and flips over. Back home in Tallinn, Tony has a disgruntled, probably unfaithful wife (Ravshana Kurkova), a stonefaced daughter, and a job with a company that shutters an entire factory for falling a fraction below its profit target. Crossing paths repeatedly with a mysterious young woman (Ravshana Kurkova) he’d rescued from police interrogation, Tony is a bewildered observer to weird events culminating in a sinister, David Lynchian orgy/cabaret/human sacrifice bash in a sprawling palazzo. Wide open to interpretation, the pic’s aesthetic boldness and idiosyncratic content reward viewer patience.

– Dennis Harvey

The Temptation of St. Tony

Estonia

Production

A Homeless Bob production in association with ATMO and Bronson Club. Produced by Katrin Kissa. Co-producers, Kristina Aberg, Jesse Fryckman, Taro Kaukomaa. Directed, written by Veiko Ounpuu.

Crew

Camera (B&W), Mart Taniel; editor, Thomas Lagerman music, Ulo Krigul; production designer, Markku Patila. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (World Cinema, competing), Jan. 29, 2010. (Also in Gothenburg Film Festival -- closer; 2009 Venice Film Festival.) Original title: Puha Tonu Kiusamine. Estonian, Russian, English, French dialogue. Running time: 115 MIN.

With

Taavi Eelmaa, Ravshana Kurkova, Tiina Tauraite, Sten Ljunggren, Denis Lavant, Hendrik Toompere Jr., Katariina Lauk, Harri Korvits, Taavi Teplenkov, Marika Barabanstsikova, Rain Tolk, Liis Lepik, Valeri Fjodorov, Evald Aavik.

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