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With: Kristyna Malérová, Maximilian Mauff, Nino Chkheidze, Assun Planas, Annie Amiridze, Suzann Petricevic
Written by: Zaza Buadze, Veit Helmer, Gordan Mihic
Directed by: Veit Helmer
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Russian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 88
Date: 01/19/2008

Absurdistan (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Water Trouble

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The last time I saw a film by Veit Helmer, Tuvalu (1999), I found that it was an intriguing mix of various styles: Tati, Jeunet, Kusturica, Chaplin, Vigo, Gilliam, Maddin, Svankmajer, Carax, etc. But beyond that, it failed to find its own heart.

Now ten years later, Helmer has turned in a similar comedy with similar influences, but somehow he has found his own flow; the new Absurdistan moves with confidence and grace with a genuine romantic and erotic drive. Temelko (Maximilian Mauff) and Aya (Kristyna Malerova) live in the fictitious village of Absurdistan (a narrator gives us a thumbnail history) and have been friends since childhood. As they reach puberty, Temelko suddenly discovers erotic longings toward his friend. She speaks to her grandmother, who consults the stars to discover their perfect "mating" day. Meanwhile, the town's water supply dries up due to a dilapidated pipeline. The menfolk have no desire to repair it, considering that its installation cost the lives of many of their elders. So the women call a "sex strike" until the men take action. Of course, since Temelko seems to be the only young person in the village, he must take matters into his own hands -- and he only has five days to do so before the stars align for his magic night.

Helmer moves the action quickly and clearly, with amusing visuals and very little dialogue. The result is never particularly laugh-out-loud funny, nor is it shockingly gorgeous, but it is quickly and easily likeable (maybe even huggable). Oddly, the film's connection between water and sex reminded me more of Tsai Ming-liang than any of the more obvious associations.

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