The still-underappreciated—and never American-distributed—Georgian master has been living and working in France for almost 30 years, but here come, on two discs, his long-sought Soviet films, each of them distinguished by Iosseliani’s comic nonchalance and casual inventiveness. The nearly mute, Tati-esque featurette April (1961)—in which a tumbledown village is transformed into a community of rabid apartment house materialists—is both openly socialist and the first of the filmmaker’s films to be censored; Falling Leaves (1968) established his rhythmic realism, following a young bureaucrat into Caucasian wine country. There Once Was a Singing Blackbird (1970)—bearing a stock Georgian-fairy-tale title—might be the world-beater, fondly and hilariously considering its restless, immature antihero-schnook as he flits around Tbilisi unable to get a stranglehold on life’s demands and at the same time reveling in virtually everyone’s company for its own sake. The aptly yet ironically titled Pastorale (1975) is just as anti-authoritarian, detailing the collision between a spite-filled rural hamlet and a visiting string quartet—except that there is no collision, only glancing intersections, unspoken impressions, and wry relationships, painting a blithe portrait of cultural disconnection that had distinctly anti-state implications. Supplements are unnecessary, but a bit of context is provided: a taped exegesis by a Moscovite scholar and film school contemporary of Iosseliani.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 13, 2005