The mostly disappointing fourth entry in the “Cities of Love” franchise (after “Paris, je t’aime,” “New York, I Love You” and “Rio, eu te amo”), “Tbilisi, I Love You” epitomizes the law of diminishing returns for exec producer Emmanuel Benbihy’s concept of illustrating the universality of romance in major world cities. Here, seven Georgian helmers contribute 10 episodes of variable length set in their country’s scenic capital. Unfortunately, the segments fail to add up to more than the sum of their parts, and only a few of them of feel like complete pieces of work. “Paris” and “New York” found worldwide theatrical distribution, but “Tbilisi” is already available on VOD.
While producers boosted the cachet of the previous entries by commissioning name filmmakers from around the world to contribute, “Tbilisi” draws on a roster of relatively unknown Georgian helmers. To up the name-recognition ante, producer-helmer Nika Agiashvili, who mainly works in the U.S., cast English-speaking actors in the episodes he helmed, including Tbilisi-born George Finn in “10 Years After,” Ron Perlman in “Freedom,” and Malcolm McDowell in “Tbilisi, My City,” but these films actually rank as the weakest of the omnibus.
Among the stronger segments is the strikingly shot and assembled “Guest,” in which vet actress Marina Kartsivadze narrates directly to the camera the surprising tale of her one-night stand with a visiting political figure in 1963; back then, she was the first female engine driver on the Tbilisi underground, and a very pretty one at that. Helmer Alexander Kviria spices the visuals with gorgeous black-and-white period footage from the Georgian Film Archive.
Also worthy of note for its clever use of archival footage, as well as a sly sense of style that recalls both the French New Wave and early Jim Jarmusch, is multihyphenate Irakli Chkhikvadze’s “Garden of Bullets.” Kicking off in 1991, it follows the hangdog threesome of Ladi (Giorgi Kvlividze), Dati (David Gotsiridze) and Nica (Eka Molodinashvili) who spend a lot of time drinking and smoking while waiting out power outages during a turbulent decade.
Perhaps the most tug-at-your-heartstrings entry is “Happy Meal,” a realistically shot short from Kote Takaishvili. An out-of-work dad picks up his bright young son from school every day while his wife is out working at an unspecified job. The youngster yearns to eat at the capital’s new McDonald’s, so the penniless older man promises to take him when he earns an “A.” The twist at the end is worthy of O. Henry.
The open-ended “Wedding” benefits from strong performances (particularly from “Blind Dates” star Ia Sukhitashvili) and some surrealist imagery, but feels like a fragment from an unfinished feature rather than a standalone short. The same problem afflicts “10 Years After,” which hints at various interesting events from the past, but fades out without anything happening in the present.
The moody, melancholy, almost experimental opening segment, “Nelly,” from Tamar Shavgulidze, purports to be shot by the title character, who is breaking up with her boyfriend (Giorgi Giorganashvili). As she gets ready to leave, her camera focuses on his individual body parts in extreme closeup, as if she wants to be able to forever remember his eyes, his chin and his ears.
Shavgulidze’s second effort, “Irakli and Tina,” also focuses on a couple, but an affluent and annoying one: Tina (Tina Eradze) awakens to the detritus of a wild party and immediately begins cleaning, while spoiled Irakli (Irakli Kvirikade) lazes around before committing the ultimate bad-boy act. Also tiresome is Levan Tutberidze’s “C’est la vie,” in which the story of a grand passion articulated to little effect is revealed to be a movie shoot. Meanwhile, on set, the hipster couple’s attractions are reversed.
In “Tbilisi, My City,” McDowell plays a disagreeable actor forced to stay in the capital for a month; he is eventually, albeit unconvincingly, converted into a jovial fellow by the city’s charms. These include the fabled Georgian spirits and cuisine, as well as a really lame-looking and sounding rock club. The worst of the lot is “Freedom,” a bizarre “Easy Rider” tribute in which leather-clad biker Capt. America (Perlman) and topless Freedom (Sarah Dumont) cavort in hotel rooms when they aren’t vrooming through the city streets on his chopper.
Credits and titles for the various segments come only at the very end of the pic. There are no transitions connecting the episodes here, as there were in “Paris, je t’aime” and “New York, I Love You.” This, in combination with the weak structure of some of the segments, makes it a tad difficult to know when one is ending and another is starting. Although the segments are stylistically different, the craft credits are mostly pro, the major flaw being the godawful music choice, which add almost nothing to the stories.
Directed, written by Tamar Shavgulidze. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Shvelidze; editor, Nodar Nozadze; production designer, Salome Skhirtladze; costume designer, Tinatin Kvinikadze; sound, Irakli Ivanishvili.
With: Giorgi Giorganashvili, Nutsa Tsikaridze.
Directed, written by Alexander Kviria. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Beridze; editors, Rusiko Pirveli, Levan Kukhashvili; production designer, Kote Japaridze; costume designer, Salome Skhirtladze; sound, Levan Kikvidze.
With: Marina Kartsivadze, Niko Tarielashvili.
Garden of Bullets
Directed, written by Irakli Chkhikvadze, based on a play by Sandro Kakulia. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Shvelidze; editor, Irakli Chkhikvadze; music, Niaz Diasamidze; production designer, Kote Japaridze; costume designer, Anna Kalatozishvili; sound, Levan Kikvidze, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: Eka Molodinashvili, David Gotsiridze, Giorgi Kvlividze.
Directed, written by Kote Takaishvili. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Shvelidze; editor, Irakli Chkhikvadze; music, Niaz Diasamidze; production designer, costume designer, Sandro Takaishvili; sound, Levan Kikvidze, Kote Kalandadze.
With: Kakha Kobaladze, Lia Abuladze, Sandro Urushadze, Nata Zarnadze, Niko Chachava.
10 Years After
Directed, written by Nika Agiashvili. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Shvelidze; editors, Rusiko Pirveli, Levan Kukhashvili; music, Robi Kukhiandze; production designer, Dodoshka Chkheidze; costume designer, Ika Bobokhidze; sound, Levan Kikvidze, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: George Finn, Nutsa Chkuaseli, Irakli Ramishvili.
C’est la vie
Directed, written by Levan Tutberidze. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Devdariani; editors, Rusiko Pirveli, Levan Kukhashvili; music, Nukri Abashidze; production designer, Tati Tutberidze; sound, Paata Godziashvili, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: Tina Dalakishvili, Lado Kobakhidze.
Directed, written by Nika Agiashvili. Camera (color, HD), Goran Pavicevic; editors, Rusiko Pirveli, Levan Kukhashvili; music, Robi Kukhiandze; production designers, Lasha Zambakhidze, Kote Japaridze; costume designers, Alicya Blake, Marlayna Cherisse; sound, Eugene Thompson, Levan Kikvidze, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: Ron Perlman, Sarah Dumont.
Directed by Levan Ghlonti. Screenplay, Archil Kikodze, Ghlonti. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Beridze; editor, Rusiko Pirveli; music, Niaz Diasamidze; production designer, costume designer, Anna Kalatozishvili; sound, Levan Kikvidze, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: George Kipshidze, Ia Sukhitashvili, Nino Shavgulidze, Paata Papuashvili.
Irakli and Tina
Directed, written by Tamar Shavgulidze. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Beridze; editor, Rusiko Pirveli; music, Robi Kukhiandze; production designer, Salome Skhirtladze; costume designer, Tinatin Kvinikadze; sound, Levan Kikvidze, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: Irakli Kvirikade, Tina Eradze.
Tbilisi, My City
Directed, written by Nika Agiashvili. Camera (color, HD), Giorgi Beridze; editors, David Hopper, Levan Kukhashvili; music, Niaz Diasamidze, Misho Urushadze; production designer, Dodoshka Chkheidze; costume designers, Polina Rudchik, Tinatin Shengelia; sound, Levan Kikvidze, Sophie Kuzmenko.
With: Malcolm McDowell, Nutsa Kukhianidze, Gogla Tzagareli