Concern bonds three generations MovieReviews

August 13, 2004

Since Otar Left

Unrated; Score ***1/2

Contrived dialogue can lead believable characters and plots astray and ruin everything in its path. Thankfully there's a flip side, displayed most beautifully in Julie Bertuccelli's Since Otar Left, a gem in which fictional characters become human by talking as real people really talk.

Otar tells the story of three generations of Georgian women - Eka, her daughter Marina and her granddaughter Ada - who live in Tbilisi, capital of the former Soviet republic. When Marina and Ada learn of the death of Eka's son Otar, who had been living in France, they conspire out of love and concern to keep the news from Eka.

For much of the film, it seems that Eka's existence revolves around Otar. But when Ada and Marina take a trip to the countryside, and Eka takes advantage of rare alone-time - riding the bus, exploring the library, smoking cigarettes on a Ferris wheel - we get hints that what Eka really pines for is her independence, which her globetrotting son represents.

Though it orbits around a lie, the story is really less about deception and suspense than it is a moving portrait of female and familial bonds. When Eka takes Marina and Ada to Paris to visit Otar, we know that the lie is about to be discovered. But still, the way in which Bertuccelli deals with "the reveal" drives home the point that these women, selfish and self-absorbed and fallible, would do anything to protect and better each other's lives.

- Chicago Tribune


Rated PG; Score *

The card-collecting fad, the second stage of a Japanese brainwashing experiment to see if kids gullible enough to fall for Pokemon will remain suckers for a few years longer, is now a minor motion picture. Yu-Gi-Oh! is exactly what you'd expect - a 90-minute ad for new cards in the latest kiddie con job to float over from Tokyo.

Something evil is manipulating the epic magic card game between card-dueling master Yugi Moto and his nemesis Kaiba. It is sneaking all these loopy-cool "god cards" into what is essentially a game of "War" where the rules change according to the marketing department's need to sell new cards to the children of parents who are, no doubt, owners of swampland and Beanie Babies and deeds to the Brooklyn Bridge.

The animation is barely animated, the dialogue is all "Shadow creatures, BE GONE! Return to the dark realm from which you came!" But really, it's all about the cards and having a card your opponent has never heard of, each new one with the amazing power to separate you from your money.

So take little Julie and little Johnny today. The theater is dark. You won't be able to look into their eyes and see them getting dumber by the second.

- Orlando Sentinel

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