Brigands: Chapter VII | Chicago Reader

Brigands: Chapter VII

The Paris-based Georgian filmmaker Otar Iosseliani has made about a dozen quirky features to date, and this ambitious 1996 fresco—a French-Russian-Italian-Swiss production—is the best of those I've seen. Moving back and forth between 16th-century Georgia, Stalinist Georgia, contemporary Georgia, and contemporary Paris, each of which solicits a somewhat different directorial style, the movie might be regarded as a mordant, witty variation on D.W. Griffith's Intolerance—a view of warfare and political corruption over the past four centuries, with the same actors playing different parts in all four periods. (The lead, Amiran Amiranachvil, plays a king in the 16th century, an early-20th-century pickpocket enlisted by communists, and a Paris clochard, for instance.) Keeping his camera at a certain measured distance from his action, Iosseliani's bleak view of human behavior is complex and amused enough to make this something more than a bitter tract; this picture is much closer to Tati or Buñuel than to Kubrick, and for all the horrors it depicts, it's never difficult to watch.

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