Wrong-way Corrigan had nothing on Marije, heroine of “Women Without Wings” who leaves Canada for Albania, a coun-try most people would prefer to escape from. Bulk of pic transpires in the breathtaking Balkans, where tribal blood feuds, drug traffickers and murderous ex-secret police are everyday parts of the landscape. “Wings” won’t precipitate stam-pedes to Albanian travel agencies, yet helmer Nicholas Kinsey suc-ceeds in making intransigent Marije’s weird choice seem credi-ble. Eminently watchable curio’s amazing scenery, stone-age twists on family values and standout supporting perf by Micheline Lanctot should cinch strong cable showing.
Marije (Katya Gardner), a street-smart sexy blonde who doesn’t suffer fools lightly, waitresses in a down-scale bar. She is unable to choose between a sweet but unsexy “nebbish” suitor and a sexy but selfish “user” lover. When her grandfather dies in Albania, she takes her convalescent mother’s place at the funeral and discovers a harsh environment and new family that she never could have imagined. Stranger-in-a-strange-land setup quickly gives way to an adven-ture story of a woman who plants unlikely roots in utterly foreign soil.
If the Canada Marije leaves behind seems composed of lose/lose choices, the Albania she first encounters seems devoid of options altogether. How-ever, this ancient feudal patriarchal society offers a surprisingly neo-feminist choice — she can live as a “virgin,” which by some convoluted logic means dressing and living as a man.
Marije looks almost as good in ri-fle-toting drag as does her aunt, a magnificently wry Micheline Lanctot, who garners more respect than anyone else of either gender, striding across the mountains as if she owned them. The cross-dressed duo sets off to avenge the grandfather’s death, blithely surviving snipers, kidnap-pings and the late arrival of Marije’s concerned Canadian boyfriend.
Aleksander Peci’s extensive use of haunting Albanian folk music sets the exotic stage quite nicely. Ivan Ge-koff’s location shooting makes the most of the continuity between dimly lit rustic interiors and sun-drenched exteriors of grassy hills and startling top-of-the-world vistas. Authentic, all-of-a-piece sights and sounds of Albania appropriately provide wel-come contrast to the film’s frag-mented, discordant view of urban life in swinging Canada.