Vodka Lemon

  • 2003
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama

Short, bitter but ultimately very sweet, exiled Kurdish director Hiner Saleem's little comedy from is a perfect counterpart to films as various as POWER TRIP, GOOD BYE, LENIN! and SINCE OTAR LEFT (all 2003), three very different films that explore the ways in which life in various former Soviet republics changed after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., and...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Short, bitter but ultimately very sweet, exiled Kurdish director Hiner Saleem's little comedy from is a perfect counterpart to films as various as POWER TRIP, GOOD BYE, LENIN! and SINCE OTAR LEFT (all 2003), three very different films that explore the ways in which life in various former Soviet republics changed after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., and not always for the better. The time is the present, the location a tiny Armenian town that has seen better days — specifically, the Soviet days when, as one character puts it, "we had no freedom, but we had everything else." Posters extolling the glory of the U.S.S.R. still hang in the post office, and the elderly inhabitants while away their hours in the local cemetery, sipping liquor from hammer and sickle-emblazoned flasks while waiting for their malfunctioning country to improve. Sixtysomething Hamo (Romen Avinian), who visits his dearly departed wife's grave nearly every day, lives in his soggy farmhouse with his unemployed and alcoholic oldest son, Dilovan (Ivan Franek), and Dilovan's pretty daughter, Avin. Hamo is awaiting word — and, he hopes, money — from Paris, where his other son, Kam, relocated in search of work. No longer able to survive on his $10 pension, Hamo has begun selling off his possessions, dragging his wedding armoire and TV set across the frozen countryside to the nearest bazaar in hopes of selling it for American dollars. One dreary, snowy day at the cemetery, Hamo catches the eye of Nina (Lala Sarkissian), a beautiful widow whose job at the village's desolate open-air cafe, where she sells bottles of Vodka Lemon (which tastes like almonds, its name notwithstanding) to drunks like Dilovan, won't even pay her bus fare. Hamo pays off her tab with the driver, and they strike up a tentative romance. Opening with the surreal image of an old brass bed, complete with an aged occupant, being dragged along the snowy wasteland, and graced with several fabulist touches, Saleem's film occasionally takes on an air of absurdity, but never at the expense of its characters. Each life is tinged with tragedy: Dilovan arranges for his daughter to marry a brutal lout in exchange for money, and it turns out that Nina's daughter isn't a piano player at all, but a prostitute. The situation in these former republics may indeed be dire, but it's a breeding ground for exciting cinema. (In Armenian, Russian and Kurdish, with subtitles)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Short, bitter but ultimately very sweet, exiled Kurdish director Hiner Saleem's little comedy from is a perfect counterpart to films as various as POWER TRIP, GOOD BYE, LENIN! and SINCE OTAR LEFT (all 2003), three very different films that explore the ways… (more)

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