Last weekend, I walked into Potomac Video. The goal was to select three films, once made in each of the three Baltic countries we will be visiting this summer: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. I failed in my task.
OK, so Estonia is a small country, but it is rather sophisticated, and I thought there was a good chance to find an Estonian film in the very extensive foreign film section of the store. Wrong. I certainly expected no problem finding a Lithuanian movie – after all, this is a significantly more populated country. Wrong. But, much to my surprise after my first two failures, I did find one Latvian film. But only one.
The Latvian film, “The Shoe”, recently made but retro in black and white and taking place before the fall of the USSR, shows Soviet guards making sure that people did not move from Russia to Latvia without permission. When they find a single woman’s shoe on a Latvian beach, the police go to the nearest town and, Cinderella-like, start to try the shoe on every woman (young or old) they can find to see who the culprit is. It’s a comedy, so they say. But maybe you have to be there. We did not make it to the end (although the movie was an “official selection” at Cannes, Toronto and Berlin – but how do you become an “official selection”?)
To make up for the two missing countries, I took a Finnish film (we are making a brief stop in Finland)and, for no good reason, an Italian film. “Lights in the Dusk”. Also a Cannes “official selection”. A gang of jewelry robbers engage a femme fatale (well, not quite) to seduce the most hapless mall security guard you can imagine, so that they can get the codes and keys to a fancy shop inside a large shopping mall. Nothing good happens. No one smiles throughout the entire film. Poor Finland.
The Italian film, a quite recent one by well know director Lina Wertmuller, called “Summer Night” was more lighthearted. A wealthy, wealthy, business woman/ecologist lives in an extraordinary estate somewhere on some Italian coast – very remote. She is a through and through capitalist, and decides that the world needs to rid itself of leading figures with socialist (or worse) leanings, those who do not believe that everyone is responsible for earning their own living. She hires a retired governmental undercover security agent and with his help she captures a well known gangster, a swashbuckling Robin Hood type, and installs him in a lush prison environment where she is able to watch his every move on her television, and even speak to him while he is being tortured. He does escape (for a brief spell) but is recaptured and, for some reason, given much better treatment, although still being held prisoner. He is, at that point, even provided with two beautiful young women for his (and her?) enjoyment. Really dumb.
Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. At least we watched them (parts of them, that is) on one night – so not too much time was wasted.