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Two Thousand and None

A paleontologist finds he has five weeks to live and decides to treat life with philosophical humor in "Two Thousand and None." Unfortunately, a sense of humor is the one thing conspicuously lacking in this second feature by Montreal helmer Arto Paragamian, which starts uncertainly, briefly develops into a slightly kooky comedy and then trails off into a weird detour about our hero getting in touch with his Armenian roots. Pic's theatrical life looks equally terminal.

With:
With: John Turturro, Oleg Kisseliov, Katherine Borowitz, Julian Richings, Carl Alacchi, Pascale Devigne, Jayne Heitmeyer, Vanya Rose.

A paleontologist finds he has five weeks to live and decides to treat life with philosophical humor in “Two Thousand and None.” Unfortunately, a sense of humor is the one thing conspicuously lacking in this second feature by Montreal helmer Arto Paragamian, which starts uncertainly, briefly develops into a slightly kooky comedy and then trails off into a weird detour about our hero getting in touch with his Armenian roots. Pic’s theatrical life looks equally terminal.

Just after divorcing his musician wife, Amanda (Katherine Borowitz), fossil expert Benjamin Kasparian (John Turturro) is told he has something called Talbot’s syndrome, a rare disease in which the brain expands. Deciding to enjoy the final weeks of his life, Benjamin is unsettled by — and unsettles — his friends, who are all horrified by his attitude.

As his wife, colleague (Julian Richings), best friend (Oleg Kisseliov) and a horny young woman (Vanya Rose) all conspire to complicate matters, some doctors ask permission to clone his brain. Meanwhile, Benjamin has started seeing home-movie-style images from his childhood reflected in coffee cups, saucepans — even a woman’s vulva when making love. Eventually, he decides to exhume his parents’ remains and re-bury them in Armenia before he suffers from complete loss of memory.

Partly because of the precise, immaculately lit lensing, but mostly because of the bloodless performances and zingless dialogue, the film has an over-clinical feel that plays against the basic concept. Paragamian (“Because Why,” 1993; the cabby episode in “Cosmos,” 1996) is not a skilled enough writer to make a virtue of restraint and resolutely fails to clarify his central character’s dilemma. The audience is left with a string of subplots but denied the key to making any sense of them.

Turturro isn’t capable of carrying this kind of black comedy without more help from his surrounding cast, who say their lines but don’t bring much more to the table. The final reel is simply ridiculous.

Two Thousand and None

Canada

Production: A Galafilm Prods. production, with participation of Canadian Television Fund, CHUM Television, the Movie Network, Super Ecran and Super Channel. (International sales: Pandora, Paris.) Produced by Arnie Gelbart. Directed, written by Arto Paragamian.

Crew: Camera (color), Norayr Kasper; editor, Alain Baril; music, Milan Kymlicka; production designer, Anne Pritchard; art director, Pierre Perreault; costume designer, Odette Gadoury; sound (Dolby Digital), Philippe Scultety; assistant director, Mireille Goulet; casting, Andrea Kenyon, Myriam Vezina. Reviewed at Taormina Film Festival, July 7, 2000. Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: John Turturro, Oleg Kisseliov, Katherine Borowitz, Julian Richings, Carl Alacchi, Pascale Devigne, Jayne Heitmeyer, Vanya Rose.

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