Monday, September 14, 2009

Melody for a Street Organ

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: Melody for a Street Organ, directed by Kira Muratova

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

Two strangely clad children walk the city streets on Christmas Eve as falling snow gently envelops everything in a powdery layer of magic. The pale-skinned youths look like a cross between dethroned royalty and homeless bums: the boy wears a luxuriously patterned coat and the girl a delicate muff, while both sport striking dark circles under their eyes.

It is a deep, dark night and Alena (Lena Kostyuk) and Nikita (Roma Burlaka) are alone after the death of their mother. Her meagre bequests – a princely coat made of curtain fabric and a queenly muff knit with loving care – are all the protection her children have against the world. Terrified at the thought of being separated, the stepbrother and stepsister board a train in search of their fathers in the big, bad city.

Kira Muratova spins her majestic web slowly and purposefully, weaving together alternating vignettes of her beloved duo. This fairy-tale world is not conjured out of thin air, but rather gives us a different take on what's already there: a train station haunted with the memory of a long-lost father; a department store doubling as Ali Baba's cave and the nine circles of hell; a clandestine street that refuses to be found. On their bizarre journey, the children discover endless rows of houses posing as shop windows to a vast array of lifestyles, with each door representing a different version of what we know and love: friends, family and shelter. But these motherless waifs are thrown out of every building.

Succumbing to Muratova's charming mercilessness, the stepsiblings learn their lesson over and over again: though we wish they could both live happily ever after, some people can never really find a place to call home.

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