Thursday, 15 April 2010


Guia is a timpanist who plays as part of the orchestra for the local ballet. The position feels like a part-time job to the young gadabout, who always arrives just in time to play his piece before rushing back out for his next social affair. He pursues a string of girls, he helps his photographer friend, he entertains the neighbourhood kids with a music box – in every way, Guia appears to live his life sans souci. His mother by contrast is beset by worry, worsened when she takes in a Russian couple as lodgers. The film follows a day in the life of Guia, condensing his hectic schedule into fitful moments of joy until a surprising obstacle stops him in his tracks.

Director Otar Iosseliani frequently saw his films censored upon release by authorities in the USSR for social criticism. Once Upon A Time There Was A Singing Blackbird is no exception, and its restless editing and focus on the individual places it stylistically closer to French cinema. While his energy is infectious, Guia is a character to be sympathised with rather than looked up to. Characters walk in and out of his life with little impression, and he feels as if he never has the time to achieve what he really wants, namely to tailor a suit and compose a piece of music trapped in his head. Comedy and tragedy in equal parts, Once Upon A Time There Was A Singing Blackbird is an underseen masterwork with universal charm.

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