Autumn Ball Creeps through the Marginalia of Baltic Consciousness


Autumn Ball
Directed by Veiko Õunpuu
Strand Releasing
June 3 through 8, MOMA

Early on in Veiko Õunpuu's debut Autumn Ball, a writer at a literary conference decries the idea of "Baltic Consciousness" as silly—a forced attempt at establishing a unified Eastern European identity where none exists. Õunpuu promptly delivers two hours of miserable people moping around horrendous apartment towers of the finest Soviet vintage, chain-smoking and drinking their way through despair. Which is, in fact, Baltic consciousness. The film itself is sporadically amusing and largely uneventful. There's a writer (Rain Tolk) drinking himself into terrible public embarrassment after his wife leaves him for his friend; a doorman busting into a spontaneous song-and-dance rendition of "Beat It"; and the occasional insightful moment. Late in the film, an architect's wife (Tiina Tauraite) loses patience with her husband's "principles" and rudeness: "You're like a character in a Bergman film," she explodes. "Not even human! One man angry with his God's failure to hear him." The wit is self-critical: Despite a handful of laughs and some gorgeous nighttime shots, Õunpuu is far too indulgent with his alcoholic creative types and failed marginalia.

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