Saturday, April 8, 2017

Petar Valchanov & Kristina Grozeva are back--with another dark & winning com-dram, GLORY

Remember The Lesson, that black, bleak Bulgarian film that opened just over two years ago? Memorable and more, that movie prodded me to conclude that we would be seeing more from its fine filmmakers, Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, and sure enough, here they are again, with an even better film, GLORY. The movie begins with the setting of the time on a wrist watch, and the watch ends the film, too, while becoming what is clearly the most important inanimate object in this very lively movie.

The two filmmakers, shown at left, with Mr. Valchanov on the right, have only grown in the two-year interim, now handing us a tale that once again shows their home country to be a place of enormous, endemic corruption, hypocrisy and ugliness, probably not at all far -- simply smaller -- from what the USA, under our current regime, will soon become. Our "hero," Tzanko, played with remarkable skill and a genuineness that scorches by Stefan Denolyubov (below) is a quiet, surprisingly honest -- given the state of Bulgaria -- railroad worker with a speech impediment. As with many movie characters who carry such a burden, this fellow, too, is sad, moving and sometimes difficult to watch as he struggles mightily to make himself understood.

When Tzanko, one day during his rounds checking and tightening the railroad tracks, comes upon a open and spilling-out sackful of money, he turns it in to the police. Due to a just-breaking scandal and a nosy TV reporter, the Transport Minister and his PR staff immediately set about making Tzanko into the public "hero" he would rather not be, and in the process starting a set of actions/reactions that become hugely destructive.

If this sounds like the basis of a great black comedy, it is. But calling this film Capra-esque, as some have done, seems to me a misnomer. Frank Capra would utterly blanch at the horrific outcome here, deserved as it might be. Capra had a great sense of irony and an appreciation of the bleak and black, but this is, well, something else. 

Fortunately the two filmmakers have rounded up another great cast, led by two of the actors who also appeared in The Lesson: Mr. Denolyubov and the leading lady, Margita Gosheva (above), who, once again does an incredible job of placing us in the mind, body and emotions of a "public servant" so wrapped up in her own needs and desires that she, like the boss above her and the underlings below her, have lost way too much of their humanity.

And yet we do identify with this woman, Julia, who, with her significant other, is trying to conceive a child and just wants, don't we all?, to live the good life. To this end, what she does, blithely and finally shockingly, paves the way to endless grief for our hero -- his poor pet rabbits are but the tip of the iceberg -- and finally to something she so completely deserves for which she will never understand the reason behind, so wrapped up in herself and her world is this poor woman.

Once again, the no-longer-Communist countries of Eastern Europe -- from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria all the way to Russia itself -- are held up to the greatest ridicule by their own filmmakers. No doubt deservedly, too, with this ironically titled movie taking its place as one of the best yet.

Another auspicious debut from Film Movement, Glory gets its U.S. theatrical premiere this coming Wednesday, April 12, at Film Forum in New York City, and will open here in South Florida at the Tower Theater, Miami, on May 15. To view all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, simply click here and scroll down.

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