Friday, July 30, 2021

The Phantom of the Opera (1998)

Dario Argento's career in horror reached its crescendo/peak in the 70s and 80s, and from then on things went into a downward spiral that shocked everyone, from his passionate fanbase, to even those who never liked him in the first place ("I mean, I've never cared for his movies myself, but what the hell happened?!" I can imagine them saying). One of the lowest moments was definitely his 1998 adaption of Phantom of the Opera...

Talented but unappreciated opera singer Christine Daae finds herself admired by the mysterious Phantom, a ghostly figure who butchers any who dare intrude in his domain, or prevent his wishes. He wants to make Christine a star, and for her to join him forever in his secluded world of darkness...

Argento's Phantom of the Opera is a film that has to be seen to be believed. It is so spectacularly bad that it's baffling! It's not just one thing either, but a whole slew of problems.

The movie gets off to a very abrupt start, like we're already partway though the story. Elements like a telepathic connection between Christine and the Phantom only serve to make this more confusing, as we suddenly hear a character's inner monologue have a conversation with someone else, before we even know who's who.

As an adaption this is bizarre. Some things are reasonably faithful, some are more superficial, while the film contains some wild diversions. For example, here the Phantom never wears a mask, isn't deformed, and was raised by rats. I think it is good to see someone take a risk, and do things a little differently. The important thing is to not be too different, and to keep the tone of the original. This captures the atmosphere perfectly, with the opera house being a living breathing organism. But its lack of loyalty in other areas are annoying, and the gore is a little out of keeping with the book.

Where the film gets even weirder is the new additions. Everything involving the rats is strange, namely one almost icky scene. There's one bit where the Phantom randomly hallucinates a bunch of rat-headed naked men caught in a mousetrap, with zero explanation, foreshadowing, or context. The whole sequence of Raoul and his bro at a brothel is not only weird, but disgusting! We see lots of obese people in states of complete undress, as well as a sense of grossness.

A complete lack of subtlety is one of the biggest problems with the film, and also what makes it so darn funny! The best example being when the rat catcher jumps onto the stage mid-performance and screams "CHRISTINE DAAE IS THE PHANTOM'S WHORE!!!!"

Onto the characters. I don't have a problem with this story starting in media res, as it's exactly what the book does. The Phantom has long been a regular haunter of the opera, and Christine already works at the opera and has communicated with him for a while. My problem here is that even by those standards, things happen far too quickly, with nowhere near enough context. It's like the writer just assumed we'd all know enough to not care about proper introductions.

The Phantom's character feels at odds with the atrocities he commits. For example, his selfless actions in the end are as faithful to the book's Phantom as anything else I've seen. You know what isn't faithful though? The Phantom chopping people in half and eating their tongues!

Christine is likeable in some places, in a classically milquetoast sort of way. She also acts schizo in some scenes, like when she laughs to herself for no reason, then randomly growls to some coworkers backstage. Where this culminates is her relationship with the Phantom. She loves him from the get-go, even banging him. Yet later on she suddenly hates him for no reason, yelling and screaming at him. Until about 20 minutes later of course, when suddenly she's all over him.

Her relationship with Raoul takes quite a backseat. They only share a few scenes, and how she feels is unclear. I feel bad for the poor guy. Here he is in love with a nice girl, who seems to like him back, but she then readily jumps the bones of a psychotic madman, then wails with a broken heart when he dies. Your boyfriend is right there honey, maybe not cry that much for another man!

The others at the opera house get a little to do, but not much, and don't often feel as fleshed out as their book counterparts. Carlotta is annoying, and her being an obese middle-aged lady is a weird addition. I liked the little ballet girl. The poor kid just can't catch a break! Harassed and chased by a perverted opera manager, then witnesses his brutal murder by the Phantom, then when she runs back to safety, her instructor doesn't believe her and hits her for telling lies! That was a bummer. I was hoping the Phantom would kill him, and that we'd see the girl get some kind of victory or success later on.

The next important character to discuss is the Rat Catcher. Surprisingly, this grotty asshole, who looks like he's taken a bath in a septic tank, is a main character! There are several moments where you think surely he's gonna die. But he makes it to the very end of the film! This is frustrating, since he is by far the most annoying person in the film, and you'll want him to die in every scene he's in.

Phantom of the Opera is a gorgeous film in some scenes, due to filming taking place in a real opera house. The sets for the caves look neat, as does the Phantom's famous catacomb. There's great lighting too. For all this movie's numerous faults, it's clear the director still had a great visual flare.

The gore effects are neat too! Wasted on a film as bad as this, but Sergio Stivaletti is always a reliable effects artist. We get numerous deaths, and while the accompanying sound design doesn't go well (it sounds like video game hack and slashing), they are otherwise very satisfying. They also made me just about die laughing too, with how over the top they can get.

The CG is less than stellar though. It's really awful in places, and even spoils otherwise good locations, with the green screen making things look like a video game.

The acting is mixed. Julian Sands is appropriately fancy in the way he speaks, and delivers some lines well, but falls victim to hilarious overacting. I felt bad for him being in this movie. He might've thought it could be a big new break, and it could've killed his career then and there! Asia Argento is her usual self. A lot of the character's erratic behaviour is down to her. She does ok for the most part, but less in others.

Istvan Bubik delivers a stunningly awful performance as the Rat Catcher. He seems to be doing his best imitation of Bela Lugosi, and props to him it's a good one! Though spoilt by the poor direction, and the character's constant gross actions. The remainder of the actors are tolerable at best, though many overdo it. The English dubbing is responsible in some ways, but not others.

Phantom of the Opera is a bad film, make no mistake, but it's also a hilarious watch. It will make you despair for Dario Argento's career, but make you laugh heartily while doing so. And frankly that's better than some of his later bad movies do...

Tenebrae (1982)

Peter Neal is a successful murder-mystery novelist, going to Italy to get away from it all, and to promote his new book Tenebrae. Things take a dark turn when a series of murders are committed in line with this book, and the killer calls him personally. Neal realises he must track down the killer before anyone else is hurt, himself included. But is the author up for the challenge of a real life mystery?

Tenebrae is a quintessential giallo film. While it's not the best to some, it's highly regarded by many, and is a perfect introduction to the genre. If someone doesn't know what a giallo is going on, they'll be well versed going out.

The movie gets off to an arresting start, with it's neat introduction and opening credits, and the plot gets rolling fairly quickly. We're introduced to a good supply of suspects and victims, although the former list dwindles as the latter grows. Despite the culprit being a little obvious in some ways, Tenebrae is a film that delights in unexpected twists and turns. Sherlock Holmes's famous quote is references throughout-"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

It's important that a mystery make sense, and while giallos would often play fast and loose with logic, they would generally come together by the end, if in a bizarre or impossible to predictable way. Tenebrae is no exception. While there are a few moments that might make the viewer go "...Huh?", it delivers in a very satisfying manner.

The characters are a good bunch. Peter Neal is a likeable and down to earth guy. He's a good protagonist to follow, and also acts as a surrogate for Argento himself. Like the director, Neal creates lurid and violent works of fiction, and that's all they are, yet people criticise him for being misogynistic, and other insults. Tenebrae has some interesting thematic qualities regarding this, and a creator's role in events.

Peter's assistant and girlfriend Anne is a nice girl who adds some charm. His ex wife Jane is also around, trying to cause trouble. It's a little unclear what she wants. Does she wanna get back together with Peter, or get with her new lover? Italian assistant Gianni is a decent guy, and has a few brainwaves with the case, which turns out to be an unfortunate thing in a giallo.

The police detectives on the case are good, with Inspector Giermani being a highlight with his interactions with Neal. His partner barely appears though, or even speaks. When she returns for the finale I had trouble realising it was even her. The main suspect is Christiano Berti, a lanky and creepy man who can't go more than one sentence without making a creepy comment of some kind.

The victims range from a seductive book thief, to a landlord's waifish daughter, and a lesbian journalist. I kinda wish she had a larger role. It could've been a neat touch-A critic decrying  this author as vile and misogynist has to investigate them, and maybe even team. At the very least I wish she'd had more than two scenes before dying, because it feels like there's seeds of an interesting (if bitchy and two faced) character there.

There are many setpieces through Tenebrae, with one of the best being a long chase scene. One girl ends up on the run from the most determined dog in existence (if only she'd given him a pat instead if being mean!), and over the course of this getaway she stumbles upon the killer's lair. She does a really good job of assessing the situation too, nabbing plenty of evidence, and even doing a decent job of fighting the returning killer! Just a shame she's not the main character, and doesn't survive the scene.

As great as it is, I feel Tenebrae gets a little carried away in the finale, trying its best to kill off as many named characters as it can. Some feel a little pointless, like Argento had leftover gore effects from Jane's demise, so figured another axing wouldn't go astray. Despite that issue, it's still a wonderful conclusion to the film, and really gives you a lot to think about.

Tenebrae is visually fantastic! The environments are carefully crafted, and there is a unique and almost oppressive feel from all the white, and the sometimes bizarre architecture. Argento's direction is superb and unmistakeable,   The most impressive moment of the film is a long tracking shot from one apartment to another. It doesn't really have any reason to exist, but its a neat addition all the same, and does build the tension as the music ramps up. The last act has some truly memorable shots, which have been seen in a few later film

The effects are equally good. Some of he murders are lower scale compared to other Argento films, with some simple throat slashings or stabbings, but the way they're orchestrated gives them pizazz. As the film goes on the deaths get more intense, culminating in one scene that'll either make you shriek in terror, or howl in laughter. Or both! All I'll say is, have you ever wondered how you can paint your house if you're dying?

The cast in Tenebrae do great jobs. Anthony Franciosa is a good lead, and Daria Nicolodi shares chemistry with him, delivering an equally good performance. John Saxon has an amusing role, while John Steiner is amusingly creepy. Guilano Gemma does well with his serious part, and is a warm personality throughout. The rest of the cast include actresses like Ania Pieroni, Lara Wendel, and the transgender Eva Robin's, who all deliver effective performances in their own ways.

The score by electronic band Goblin is great! There are many tense, fast-paced, and thrilling tracks to enjoy, and the flashback music is like an eerie distorted music box. The main theme is the best track in the film for me. It starts off ominous, but soon becomes almost cheery, like it's scoring an 80s aerobics video.

Tenebrae is one of my favorite Dario Argento films, and a great introduction to Italian horror! If you have a kid who is eager to get into the genre, all you need to do is show 'em this and they'll be a fan for life!...Or I suppose you could wait till they're older, if you wanna be un-cool about it...

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Malá Mořská Víla-The Little Mermaid (1976)

The Little Mermaid lives a tranquil life under the sea with her family, but as her father searches for a suitable groom for her to rule with, she yearns for the world above. She falls for a human prince, and saves his life against her father's objections. Unable to resist the temptation any longer, she goes to see a witch to gain the ability to go to the surface. Her wish is granted, but at a terrible cost, and the little mermaid must gain the prince's love all without her voice...

Czechoslovakia was rich with fairytale content during the 70s. Partly because the Soviet censorship would probably come down hard least upon something as safe as a fantasy set in antiquity, and also because they're just damn good stories. I'm leaning more on the latter. Even today these movies  are fondly remembered, and often overplayed on the local television stations every year.

A few of the Czechoslovak fantasies I've seen each have their differences, but were definitely birds of a feather. Malá Mořská Víla however is a very different kind of tale. It's got a unique tone, and an ethereal presentation. It almost feels like an experimental film, due to the dreamlike atmosphere combined with the 'underwater' movements and the almost eerie music. This is delivered well, without the movie ever losing sight of the fact that it's a fairy tale.

Malá Mořská Víla is by far one of the most faithful adaptions of the Hans Christian Andersson tale. This fact will either make you pleased and/or curious, or it'll make you scared shitless. Yep, a lot of old fairy tales have gotten considerably lightened over the years, and The Little Mermaid is a prime example. The original story is considered quite dark and depressing! Malá Mořská Víla is never quite that bad, but it isn't all sunshine and rainbows. The events of the film seem almost inevitable, and reach a sombre conclusion.

The ending itself is the only real deviation from the source material, not because of anything it changes, but rather what it leaves out. All the air spirit stuff is absent, as is the 300 years of good deeds to earn a soul. The former I kinda wish was present in some way, because that would at least make the Little Mermaid's = mean something in the end. But then again it is a bit silly. And as for the latter element, I'm glad that's not included. The Little Mermaid is a dear sweetheart! Sure, she almost stabbed a couple of people to death, but besides that she's really a lovely person, so being forced to do 3 centuries worth of good deeds before she's allowed the 'privilege' of having a soul is a bit mean when she's already ascended!

The nameless little mermaid is a nice lead. Likeable, sweet, and graceful, with an enigmatic charm.
But where she lost me is when she gives up her voice to  This is a problem I have with all adaptions. It's one thing if each step she takes is =  but why would she give up one of her most important assets? She's doing all this to be with the Prince, and tell him she saved his life, and she won't even be able to say "Hi".

The prince is fairly likeable, though a bit of a dick for abandoning the mermaid for his new girlfriend. And so quickly too! It's all in the last 6 minutes! While he is a fairly nice guy, I didn't think much/highly of the prince's intelligence either, insisting sailing his boat through the most dangerous  because he heard a nice voice, presumably costing the lives of his entire crew.

The sea witch doesn't have a big role here, having only one scene. But she really makes it count. She's not evil per se, just not good, and she is played so matter-of-factly. She may be a violent witch, but at least she's honest, as can be seen in her hilarious line: "What can mermaids want from a witch? You want to be like humans. To have the prince you saved fall in love with you. It's a silly idea. But have it your own way, beautiful princess. This idea will bring your downfall. I'll make you a drink."

Malá Mořská Víla looks beautiful. The sets all look wonderful, as do the natural locations. The lighting is varied, with a blue palette for the sea world, a lush orange glow for the ocean above, and naturalistic tones for the world on land.   weather  the way the waves dash off the rocks is perfect. Another stylistic touch is that vaseline or something has been smeared over the camera lens for a lot of the underwater scenes. Thankfully the movie doesn't overuse this. There's nothing worse than a movie that deliberately obscures all its scenes just to appear stylish.

The costumes are all neat. They do look a bit goofy, but because everyone takes things so seriously and the story is so solemn, they make it work. It is clear that the budget probably didn't extend to fish tails, meaning none of these mer-people actually look the part, but the elaborate costumes and make-up [makes up] for that. The only drawback is a lot of the characters blend together. Not even age is a good indicator with how all-encompassing these outfits are.

The music is fantastical and otherworldly, with many evocative pieces. The songs the lead sings are great too, and are exactly what you could imagine a sailor going to his doom over.

The actors all do good jobs, and sell the atmosphere well. The lead is Miroslava Safránková   Her famous sister Libuse is also present, but in a surprisingly small role. I actually thought she was playing the little mermaid's sister, but nope, shes' the human princess. Aside from one scene early on, she really only appears in the last 10 minutes.

Malá Mořská Víla is a classic of Czech fantasy. It may not be the happiest movie, but it's worth watching all the same. There aren't many like it!...

Elusive Summer of 68 (1984)

Peter is a teenage boy growing up in 1960s Yugoslavia. Like all boys, he's keen to get to know girls better, and is always searching for his one true love. His father however is constantly disapproving of the messes Peter gets into along the way, and is determined to see the boy shape up into a good Marxist like his father. As the year stretches on, and student protests spread across the world, the whole family begins to show its dysfunctional side, and it seems Peter may find true love after all...

Elusive Summer of 68 is a Yugoslavian coming of age story that delivers everything you'd expect and more. It's a delightful movie, warm and sweet, with a cheeky side to it.

The film manages to blend comedy and drama together very well, with the more sombre moments never ruining the overall mood, or making things too depressing.

A big element of the film is in its time period, and all the tumultuous things that were to happen in the Eastern Bloc during 1968, from the student protests, to the Prague Spring, and ultimately the Soviet invasion. The way its handled is nice and informative. You get a sense of the context and the history without it being clumsily forced down your throat.

Peter is a good lead. He's a naughty boy who could probably do with a good spanking, but never comes across as a legitimate pest (the library scene excluded!). He's always good-hearted, and his mishaps and misfortunes are often amusing, and occasionally you do feel for him.

A big part of Elusice Summer is Peter's various romances, as he looks for the girl of his dreams. Each time he thinks he's found her however something goes wrong, like the girl not being interested, to the parents disapproving, to the girl being too interested! All the while sweet Czech girl Ruzenka watches forlornly in the distance. These dalliances are always funny to watch, and I appreciated the variety in them. The most surprising one was the baker's fiancee, and how much she reciprocates Peter's advances! What follows has got to be every boy's dream, and it is the sexiest and funniest scene in the entire film.

I liked that contrary to the previous failed =, this 'romance' didn't end due to =, but =. You understand why these two wouldn't work long term (she's way too easy, and slightly engaged), but = nice while it lasts. Its conclusion was sweet in a way, though I felt it was spoiled a little with the final coda. But I can't deny that it makes sense, and it is effectively dramatic.

The final romance is of course the =, with the Czech girl. I was a little bummed out by how long it took for her to make a reappearance, but I understand why. When she does return things are short but sweet, and the two share instant chemistry. I was weirded out by how quickly they bang though!

Their story together is great, and the ending is melancholy, partly due to the history of the time, and her departure. I do think it's effective on its own, but I coulda done without the depressing narration the film ends on! Come on, Peter, is it really so hard to get a train ride one country over?!

Family patriarch Vesa  He's a staunch Marxist, and unlike his father and son, has no time for ogling at women. Instead he much prefers reading his magazines on Communism, and giving lectures to people. He holds an emnity towards the protesters, claiming "They do not work, but they protest", and lines like this give him a good dimension, and show that while =, he =. Nor is his = shown to be all =, as it's implied he became a Communist to get a promotion, and his devotion to Tito is so [extreme] that all it takes is =  for him to agree with the students wholeheartedly.

Peter's sister Vladitza is interesting! She's instantly infatuated with the = student Tzile, and this creates a fascination with politics and current affairs. But this interest goes beyond simple influence, and becomes genuinely dear to her heart, and she feels like one of the smartest most insightful characters in the film.

The family's youngest son is adorable and hilarious with the various comments he makes. Innocent yet worldly, he knows exactly what's up!

The grandfather is likewise a great guy. He's so earnestly likeable! Honest and upfront, and never a hypocrite. He can't condemn Peter for his misbehaving running after girls, because he says he was just the same at his age. Also it's funny how for all of Vesa's political chumminess, he can't get the same kind of favours as his dad can with his gambling =.

Elusive Smmer really does have a packed cast, and just about everyone is memorable in some way. The [militant] older boy Tzile is amusing, and his story takes an interesting direction, but that's never really followed up on, and we never see a proper resolution with him. Whether or not it's necessary depends on the viewer I guess.

This is a very nice looking picture. It's directed superbly, with many scenes looking like perfect snapshots. The environments are all nice too, from the old fashioned houses, to the schools, the beaches and campsite, etc. The film also portrays the aesthetic of the period well too, such as the snazzy mod fashion!

The acting here is great! Slavko Štimac may be the lead, and he does a fine job, but Bata Stojković is undoubtedly the MVP! He delivers a hilarious performance. Authoritative, bumbling], and =, he's a real hoot! Yugoslavia's/Serbia's other national treasure Mija Aleksić has a smaller role but no less funny and distinctive. He brings a lot of warmth and heart to the proceedings. Ivana Mihić is cute and spunky as the family daughter, and I really enjoyed her role. I wish I knew a girl like her when I was a teen! Sajna Vejnović is very pretty as the Czech love interest, and makes the most of her screentime. The rest of the cast all do well too, from the various girls, to the other characters who populate the film.

Elusive Summer of 68 is a great film to watch in its own right, as well as a perfect snapshot of a specific time period, in this certain country. It may not be perfect, but it's never a mean-spirited time, and it's sure to leave you laughing, and knowing more by the end...

Monday, July 26, 2021

Kosh ba Kosh (1993)

Mira is a young lady moving back to her home country of Tajikistan, after studying in Russia. She's soon met with a rude arrival when it transpires her desperately in debt father has gambled her away in a game. As the men squabble over her, young lift operator Daler takes her away to his home, and a romance blossoms between the two, despite outward conflict...

Kosh ba Kosh is a Tajik drama and film festival contender, coming from director Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov. It tells the dramatic story of love and strife in the crumbling post-Soviet nation

The movie gets off to a good start, though kinda heavy. Where I struggled to take the movie seriously though was that Mira's father could rack up such serious debts with a friendly game of dice on the street with some mates. It's not like he's gambling in a casino here! Ibrohim is just some random dude, not a mafioso don.

All the bickering over Mira's fate from these older men had me worried the film was gonna take a turn for the depressing. Thankfully this section of the film comes to a fairly swift end, as Daler 'wins' Mira on her request, and the midsection focuses on the two getting to know each-other. The tone is fairly light, despite the film always remaining a drama.

At times the movie tries pushing the idea that Mira is unwelcome in Tajikistan, and seen as a fancy rich girl with no place here. But pretty much the only one giving voice to this is Daler's friend, who's just worried his association with this girl is gonna cause trouble. So how much of this is truth and how much is just twaddle is ambiguous, since the locals we see interacting with Mira seem perfectly chummy.

The last act is where the movie began to really disappoint me. Mira begins acting needlessly mean to Daler, trying to find any excuse to break things off. I get why-She's doing it to save him trouble. But come on, he grew up on these mean streets, I'm sure he can deal with a few assholes not liking his up-market girlfriend! There's no need to yell at him, dump him, and bugger off back to Russia! Have a heart, girl!

Everyone continues acting like assholes to each-other, like when Mira storms out of Daler's flat and back to her father's, suddenly showing concern for the welfare of the man who sold her like property. Then in the very next scene she's yelling at her dad and saying she'll leave if he doesn't =. Make up your mind!

Everything seems to culminate in a final gambling match, where Daler attempts to settle the dispute with Ibrohim once and for all...Even though the old pervert admitted earlier to not wanting to =, telling Daler he can =. Nothing comes of this though and the match just cuts away. The movie potters along with random stuff, before finding the best excuse it can get to wrap things up. 5 minutes before the end we see Daler gambling again and it's suddenly revealed he's in debt. Mira is so pissed off at this that she immediately storms off and leaves. That's it. The End.

The characters are an alright bunch. Daler is nce enough, and likeable despite his early vices. The dramatic stuff by the end annoyed me a bit though. I got so sick of hearing the name Mira! On that note, she is a good girl in half her scenes. She makes the most of a crummy situation in a crummy area, and makes plenty of friends.

Her father meanwhile is a dickhead. This much is apparent from his actions at he beginning. Later on he gets angry that his daughter is disgracing him by dating a 'bum'. This is stunning in its hypocrisy, not only because he plays gambling matches with that 'bum', and is hardly a catch himself, but namely because he sold his daughter for a bet. And she's the disgrace, dude/mate?

Ibrohim is a bit confusing. What he actually wants isn't quite clear, although he always comes off as a jerk. And lastly, Daler's various older friends throughout the city are nice enough, and provide a good = for Mira.

Worth mentioning are a few really weird and random scenes, like the whole bickering and undressing(?) under the mattress scene, or when Mira meets a weird topless dancing man.

While not a magical realist film like other entries in Khudojnazarov's filmography (Luna Papa comes to mind), Kosh ba Kosh still bears familiar themes, including a strong feminist message, which is apparent even in the dedication at the beginning. While I didn't think it landed as well as it could've, I still appreciate the thought.

An important element to bring up when discussing Kosh ba Kosh is the fact that the Tajik civil war broke out during filming! The sound of bullets can be heard in the distance, sirens are frequently wailing, and one scene is lit by tracer rounds off in the horizon. I naturally don't want this to overshadow the rest of the  which is why I'm only mentioning it here, but it's a little hard to overlook when scenes are constantly interrupted by gunfire. Not only does it break your concentration on the film every time, but you get worried for the wellbeing of the actors, especially when they're being loud, moving around rapidly and making a spectacle, or throwing things around. Especially when they're stuck in the lift, going one way-Where the shooting's coming from! Luckily no-one was killed.

Despite the war raging all around the production, Kosh ba Kosh/the film's portrayal of Tajikistan is multi-faceted. I like the honesty displayed here. The movie is always upfront about the situation, from the rundown streets, to poor economy, and increasing violence. But unlike a film like Cabaret Balkan, it takes/shows the good alongside the bad rather than showing a blanket negative portrayal. Life goes on for everyday people even when a country is doing poorly, and even when the city is in a state of warfare, and even when characters are given an opportunity to leave, they don't just go "Jamaica here we come!", but instead ask if leaving is the right thing to do.

Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov has shown himself to be a very capable director, and he handles the material extremely well. While the plot is fairly simple and down to earth, he still finds great opportunities for nice shots, close up and far away, and quite a few in one take. Interesting perspectives are used (not to mention occasionally confusing), and the film is never visually boring, even if the locations aren't the most exciting around.

The actors all do good jobs. Daler Madjidav is a decent and relateable enough lead, Radzhab Khuseynov does a little too well as the slimy Ibrohim, and the remainder of the cast are fine. The standout is Paulina Galvez, who delivers a great performance, really nailing moments of  hysterical = as she jumps between joy and sadness so = you almost can't tell the difference. She's dubbed into Russian, since she presumably didn't speak the language, but this doesn't affect her performance too much, as the most impressive moments are all without dialogue. Also, the fact that Galvez was even in somewhere like Tajikistan to shoot a movie shows she's a plus actress!

The score here isn't the best, and a lot of the movie seems to go by without much in the way of music, but what there is is nice enough.

Kosh ba Kosh is a bit of a bummer as far as films go, but it's at least not depressing, and it's definitely worth watching if you're interested in world cinema. I'm not really sure if this film shows much of the Tajik people's cultural identity, but it certainly shows a thing or two about their resilience...