Oct 10, 2020

The Bra (Veit Helmer, 2018)

 ☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

In one of the oddest, if not the boldest deconstructions of the Cinderella story, the heroine doesn't lose her glass slipper, but a rather intimate part of her wardrobe. When the train passes through a run-down area of Baku, dangerously close to dilapidated houses surrounding the railway, her turquoise bra gets stuck to the locomotive front. An aged engine driver - compassionately portrayed by Serbian veteran actor Predrag Manojlović - embarks on an adventurous journey to find his 'princess', hoping she may put an end to his lonely existence and thus fill his retirement days with joy.

Given that the protagonist employs the same 'try on' system as the one from the original fairy tale, there are plenty of situations that produce a humorous effect, whether the visited ladies are spinsters or widows, single moms or the wives of burly (and not to mention jealous) men. And the poor guy's determination is so strong that he is willing to go to any length in order to achieve his goal, which also livens up the comedy. On top of that, Helmer's frequent collaborator Denis Lavant provides an extra dose of delightful comic relief moments, in a brilliant supporting role as an apprentice prone to buffoonery.

The quirkiness is amped up to eleven and the world of The Bra often appears as borderline fantastical, not only because the characters don't speak, or because a servant boy resides in a doghouse. Simply put, there's some kind of magic in the childlike playfulness of both direction and performances, as well as in the grainy texture of 35mm cinematography, especially during the scenes which capture bucolic beauty. (The image of Sayora Safarova as a sweet village girl holding a brown lamb amidst a vast meadow gets easily and deeply imprinted in the viewer's mind!) Bursting with colors, the film's pleasant, refreshingly retro and meticulously composed visuals are effectively complemented by a mellifluous, highly evocative score, diegetic sounds and non-verbal vocalizations, so the absence of dialogue - one of Helmer's trademarks - once again proves to be a welcome choice. The Bra is best described as an affectionately written love letter to silent cinema, and as such, it possesses a timeless quality, as well as a potential to become the future cult favorite.

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