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MOVIE REVIEW: The Temptation of St. Tony

A disjointed story that doesn't go anywhere

Taavi Eelmaa as Tony in ``The Temptation of St. Tony.''

Taavi Eelmaa as Tony in ``The Temptation of St. Tony.''

  • Taavi Eelmaa as Tony in ``The Temptation of St. Tony.''
  • Taavi Eelmaa as Tony in ``The Temptation of St. Tony.''
  • A scene from the film ``The Temptation of St. Tony.''
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This Estonian film is subtitled and in black and white. Right there a lot of people will be turned off.

When it starts with a musical funeral procession that almost gets run over by a car careening out of control, I was excited by what I was about to watch. The bloody driver gets out, drags a dog, and finds a few human hands nearby in the forest.

At the police station, we see someone cheating at a chess game (never a smart move to put the piece in your pocket), and one of the funniest, most bizarre police interrogations ever.

I can’t tell you what this movie is about after that, because it’s really not about anything.

Tony (who crashed the car and found the hands) is a mid-level manager who is told by his boss he has to fire the entire plant.

He takes home an attractive woman whose father was one of the fired employees, and that’s about where the movie stops making sense.

The film doesn’t really have a plot. They just throw moody, atmosphere at you and a handful of old movie references. Sure, the imagery is cool, but so what.

I’m guessing if David Lynch and Ingmar Bergman had a baby, it would be this director – Veiko Ounpuu.

I wouldn’t mind the slow pacing of the picture, if it was actually going somewhere.

There is a great dinner scene where people discuss wife swapping (in case you wonder, “wife swapping” is pronounced the same in Estonian as in English).

When a homeless guy shows up at the large window and peers in, it’s hysterical as everyone tries not to look at him; even funnier when Tony decides to give him a bottle of booze with a little wine left in it. The guy takes the booze, promptly dumps it out, and puts it in his bag with other cans and bottles he’s taking to get recycled.

Why couldn’t they put these clever scenes in a cohesive movie that has a point?

Just like the films Wild Grass, I Am Love, and White Material last year – they are disjointed, bizarre, and aimless – yet critics like to mistake that for fine art.

I’m not sure why critics give a pass to filmmakers who make some abstract films. In my eyes it’s a medium that doesn’t allow for that. You should be able to tell a story that makes sense. You can have an abstract scene or something bizarre in the film, but the entire picture shouldn’t be a mess.

And you can tell a story so many ways on the big screen. You can do a documentary, a first-person narrative, third person narrative, or a combination of both. It can be an epistolary narrative (told in a series of letters, diary entries, newspaper stories for example).

It can take place in the future, on another planet where aliens live and spaceships fly.

A film can be animated. You can jump the timeline around like Pulp Fiction or 500 Days of Summer.

You can break thefourth wall (when a character talks directly to the audience, the way Ferris Bueller did).

But what I don’t accept is just throwing clever, well-shot scenes together and calling it a good film. That’s great imagery, not a great movie.

What would people do if a story was written for the New Yorker or any publication – in which the writer uses big words, or very interesting and descriptive phrasing, but the story makes no sense? It wouldn’t be published.

Yet in the filmmaking world, stuff like this gets out and critics praise it. Pretentious people claim to love it, others claim to not understand it, and say they hate critics and never agree with them on anything.

This movie gets a D, but as crazy as it sounds…I’m looking forward to the next movie from Ounpuu.