“Calendar,” Atom Egoyan’s first pic shot in his homeland, will delight the Canadian-Armenian helmer’s fans and send others screaming up the walls. The rondo-like fakumentary about a fussy photog and his estranged wife is pure festival material.
“Calendar” is an interesting side trip in Egoyan’s career, with none of the depth or broader appeal of “The Adjuster.”
Egoyan regular Arsinee Khanjian plays the wife of a lenser (Egoyan) commissioned to do a calendar of historic churches in Armenia. While traveling around, the wife gradually feels drawn to her ethnic roots and stays on after her husband returns home.
Over the next year, the photog tries to write a series of letters to her, and seeks inspiration in a variety of foreign women invited for dinner. End of picture.
As usual, Egoyan is slow to reveal the essentials of his storyline but has a lot of fun with some dry comedy on the way. The pic alternates between Armenian sequences, in which Khanjian interprets for the unseen Egoyan direct-to-camera, and repetitive scenes back in Canada of Egoyan stranded at his own dinner table while his latest female guest uses the phone.
It’s a cute idea that works best in the former segs, as Khanjian gradually loses her patience with her husband’s asinine requests and drifts off with the local driver-guide. The joke in the Canadian segs of women talking in their native language on the phone soon runs out of steam.
Beneath the jokes, it’s all about separation, national identity (or lack of), and the distancing effect of the camera lens.
Technically, 16mm is up to Egoyan’s usual fine standards, with mixed-media use of video and crisp camerawork by Norayr Kasper. Khanjian is as striking as ever, and Egoyan particularly good in his off-camera exchanges with her.