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‘Citizen Saint’ Review: A Nightmarishly Handsome Religious Allegory

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There may be an outdated joke a couple of pious man stranded on a desert island. As he prays for divine deliverance, a ship arrives, however he sends it away, saying, “God will save me.” Ditto a helicopter and finally a seaplane. The person dies, to his shock, and when he will get to heaven, asks God why he didn’t save him. God replies, “Look, man, I sent a ship, a helicopter and a seaplane…” If the ethical of this outdated chestnut had been hewn from the craggy quarries of a benighted Georgian mining village, and carved in strikingly beautiful black-and-white cinematography, it would look just a little like “Citizen Saint,”  Tinatin Kajrishvili’s somber, scabrous third movie, wherein a rural group refuses to just accept a God who strikes in something however essentially the most mysterious methods. 

Departing from the low-key naturalism of her two prior options “Brides” and “Horizon,” right here Kajrishvili strikes into an overtly allegorical register, with Krum Rodriguez’s distinctive lensing bringing dystopian grandeur to the scrubby plains and rocky terrains of the distant Georgian countryside. The hillsides on this area are scarred with pit openings and dotted with rusting bulldozers, and there’s even a weatherbeaten iron monorail that delivers granite-faced employees deep into the bowels of the native mine. In a clearing on a Calvary-esque crag, there additionally stands silhouetted a rough-hewn wood cross, on which the cruciform determine is that of a miner, in helmet and overalls. He’s the native saint, watching over the city by means of petrified goggles, and every morning employees and villagers alike line as much as troop round his toes and depart choices.  

Above floor, the photographs are paying homage to Bela Tarr or the notably dolorous stretches of early Tarkovsky films, an impression accented by the unusual siren-like blares, twangs and choral interludes of Tako Zhordania’s otherwordly rating. Underground, the photographs are much more stark, recalling the extra apocalyptically nightmarish passages of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: The Return.” In a dead-end part of the mine illuminated solely by the chilly flicker of a fizzing neon signal, outdated man Berdo (Levan Berikashvili) ekes out a meager existence, muttering to the ghost of his son who died ten years prior in a mine collapse. It’s a catastrophe for which it appears like the entire group remains to be in mourning, notably Berdo’s black-clad spouse (Lia Abuladze), whom Berdo can not carry himself to face. 

The statue is introduced down for restoration on the native museum, a course of overseen by Mari (Mari Kitia), whose personal attachment to the saint appears considerably lower than pure — obscurely linked to the unhappiness of her marriage to Vano (George Bochorishvili), who misplaced his legs in the identical pit accident. However when the next day Mari returns to the museum, accompanied by the officious mine proprietor (Temiko Tchitchinadze) and an area busybody (Gia Burdjanadze), the statue has vanished from contained in the locked room. On the identical time, a mute stranger (George Babluani, “Dede”) reveals up, sprouting stigmata. It doesn’t take lengthy for the townsfolk to comprehend he’s their saint made flesh, their very personal municipal Messiah. 

However the surprise he evokes, answering prayers left and proper — one whisperish, hallucinatory sequence sees him reunite Berdo together with his son and the opposite misplaced miners — shortly offers technique to an infectious paranoia amongst a inhabitants all too conscious that through the years they’ve confessed all their darkest secrets and techniques to the statue. The saint turns into a form of timebomb strolling amongst them, and so the transfer in the direction of tragedy and self-defeat scarcely comes as a shock. Certainly Kajrishvili and Basa Janikashvili’s screenplay is gentle on surprises general, establishing such a pervasively dour temper from the outset that the inevitable ending doesn’t land with the ironic chew that it might. 

That is barely a criticism besides within the context of recent Georgian cinema which — from Dea Kulumbegashvili’s bleakly sensible “Beginning” to Alexander Koberidze’s fantastic, whimsical “What Do We See When We Look At The Sky” to even the smaller-scale charms of final yr’s Karlovy Range-awarded “A Room of My Own” — has earned a fame for unpredictability. With its painterly compositions and deliberate pacing, “Citizen Saint” belongs to a extra classical arthouse custom, which sardonically observes, and tacitly judges, its characters’ foibles and failings, moderately than taking part in them.

That makes the movie a droll, distancing expertise that may come off as faintly condescending in its view of the spiritual impulse as inherently petty and hypocritical, the final refuge of small-minded people who cleave to the symbols and rituals of religion however reject their precise that means. The agenda is meant as subversive, however a non-interventionist God, if one exists, can be moderately gratified by “Citizen Saint”: Humanity, a minimum of this determined, dirty phase of it, hardly deserves God’s grace if that is what they do once they get it.



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