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Discovering Georgian Cinema

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Discovering Georgian Cinema

Saturday, February 7, 2015
8:30 p.m. My Grandmother
Kote Mikaberidze USSR, 1929

(Moya Babushka/Chemi Bebia). Gogol meets Charlie Chaplin in this riotous, scathingly anti-bureaucratic satire. My Grandmother is a genuine piece of grotesquerie descended from the Soviet Eccentric Cinema (FEKS) of the twenties. For invention, it matches any film of the French avant-garde, taking in all kinds of advanced filmic devices such as stop-motion, bits of puppetry, and animation, as well as expressionist decor and camera angles. The energetic music track will have you dancing a Soviet-style Charleston along with the film's most memorable character, a wide-eyed, wild-haired bureaucrat's wife who is caught up in a frenzy of bourgeois living. Her equally comic husband personifies the indolence, irrelevance, and obduracy of a state system that resembles nothing so much as a giant scoreboard, winding down. When he loses his job, he learns the true value of a "grandmother"—a slang term for the patronage and privilege that keep the machine greased. What are we to think when, at the film's end, he is reprimanded by a Lenin-like worker, shot from the ground so that he looks ten feet tall? Suppressed for half a century, this irreverent blast has lost none of its immediacy.

• Written by Mikaberidze, Giorgi Mdivani, Siko Dolidze. Photographed by Anton Polikevich, Vladimir Poznan. With Aleksandre Takaishvili, Bella Chernova, E. Obanov. (65 mins, Silent with music track, Russian intertitles with English electronic titling, B&W, 35mm, BAM/PFA Collection)