(Canada/France; 115 min.)
directed by: Atom Egoyan
starring: David Alpay; Arsinée Khanjian; Christopher Plummer
"I had no idea what to expect with Atom Egoyan's new film ARARAT. It
has received many negative reviews and scant few good ones. As a big Egoyan
fan, I was worried. Would this be the first of his films that I wouldn't
enjoy? And the subject, the Armenian Genocide... I just couldn't imagine
what Egoyan would attempt that put off so many people. Needless to say,
I was completely surprised at how amazing this film is. I loved it, and
the more I think about it and discuss it with Scot, the more I love it.
"ARARAT is not a film about the Armenian genocide. It is a film about truth and history. About how sometimes the way we tell a story is more important than the story itself. He uses the Armenian genocide as the backdrop... the subtext... There's a film within the film that IS in fact about the Armenian genocide. I think the people who didn't like Egoyan's film were looking for something more akin to the film within the film. I was much more interested in the film Egoyan chose to make.
"In this film, Charles Aznavour plays a well-known director who is making a film about the Armenian genocide. His style is very over-the-top, with a strong Hollywood epic feel to it. After hearing a lecture by Ani (Arsinée Khanjian), an art history scholar who has recently written a book about a famous Armenian artist who survived the genocide, he and his writer (Eric Bogosian) decide to enlist her help on the movie as a historic consultant, in order to provide accurate details on the film even as they stretch the truth even further to make a dramatic story. Ani's son Raffi is also hired as a production assistant on the film in the hopes that he will come to better understand what happened between the Armenians and Turks and why. Raffi's father was killed in a failed attempt to assassinate a Turkish diplomat 15 years ago. Raffi also has a step-sister, who was the daughter of Ani's first husband. She blames Ani for her father's death (murder? suicide?) and continually appears at Ani's book readings asking disturbing questions linking the subject of her book (who also committed suicide) with her first husband. And there's even more...
"There were so many things I admired in this complex, ambitious film. I love the way Egoyan jumps around in time and doesn't really give you any clues... you just have to sit back and figure it out. The film within the film... the one actually about the Armenian Genocide... is stilted and overblown, much like most big Hollywood productions, but not without the horror and tragedy inherent in situation. There are some amazing scenes in ARARAT, especially the ones where Egoyan tries to find an understanding in the Turks point of view regarding the genocide and their inability to accept it. And amazing performances as well. Charles Aznavour is terrific as the director. Christopher Plummer is superb in a quiet performance as an airport customs officer who interviews Raffi on his return to Toronto after a trip to Turkey. And how delightful to see Arsinée in such a large, dramatic part. She really shines in this difficult role. David Alpay is fairly strong in the tricky role of Raffi, especially in his dramatic scenes with Christopher Plummer.
"One of the many criticisms I've read about ARARAT is how the dialogue is so expository. I didn't find it so at all. One of the points of the film is how the story of the Armenian genocide has been lost, and that people don't talk about it. There's a lot of explanation on what happened in that period of history told through dialogue, which is as it should be in this film. After all, it's NOT a film about the genocide itself, but who it has been dealth with. Plummer's David, when trying to determine if Raffi is smuggling drugs explains that while it's true, trained dogs could easily sniff out the drugs, he prefers his method of talking to the suspect to find out the truth through dialogue. It's a powerful moment, especially in retrospect when the entire film is revealed.
"ARARAT is complex, ambitious, thought-provoking, and masterful. I was so delighted by it after expecting something very different. It, and its director should be added to my long lists of Best Movie and Best Director nominees." 4 1/2 cats
Peg says: "I am sorry to say, that although I am a *big* fan of Atom Egoyan's work, I damn near hated this film (and I am a pariah among local critics for generally being able to find something good to say about everything). It is preachy, manipulative and very slow-moving. The dialogue is so laden with exposition and clumsy plot-ridden revelation that it is sometimes beyond belief. I expected great things and was bitterly disappointed. That said, there are some actors doing their best and the film-within-a-film conceit seems to work rather well. I also was interested in the Armenian historical aspects of the story. But the characters are written to be mouthpieces and little more. It's a shame because this film was obviously a project produced with much passion and looks very big budget.
"Worth seeing because it is Egoyan (rather like seeing NIGHT ON EARTH because it is Jarmusch), but not a satisfying cinematic experience on the whole." 2 cats