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2002 - R - 116 Mins.
Director: Atom Egoyan
Producer: Atom Egoyan, Robert Lantos
Written By: Atom Egoyan
Starring: David Alpay, Arsinee Khanjian, Charles Aznavour, Christopher Plummer, Eric Bogosian
Review by: David Trier
There have been several movies about the Jewish Holocaust. It is such a well-documented and recent blemish on human history that there seems to be endless material from which to draw stories. So much so that mention of the term “holocaust” quickly paints a picture of the horrific persecution of European Jews in WWII. But a few decades before “the holocaust”, well over a million Armenians were slaughtered by the Turks, their bodies buried in mass graves, their story hidden away and denied even by the modern Turkish government. In fact Hitler himself used the argument, “Who remembers the massacre of the Armenians?” So the film industry is long overdue for a film about the Armenian Holocaust, and it’s unfortunate that this is not the definitive film.

Film director Edward Saroyan (Charles Aznavour) is attempting to make a film about the Armenian Holocaust, but has difficulty telling the true story when time itself has distorted what happened. He casts actor Ali (Elias Koteas) as the evil Turk, Jevdet Bay, and Martin (Bruce Greenwood) as a doctor on the frontlines. He enlists Armenian writer Rouben (Eric Bogosian) to pen the script and Ani (Arsinée Khanjian), a novelist who lectures about the life of Armenian artist Arshile Gorky (Simon Abkarian), as an adviser. Her son Raffi (David Alpay) gets a job as a driver on the set and takes it upon himself to go to Turkey to find his ancestral identity. Raffi is stopped at customs upon his return and is interrogated by David (Christopher Plummer), an officer about to retire, where he tells the story of the Armenians in flashbacks. David is at odds with his son Phillip (Brent Carver), who is coincidentally in a gay relationship with the actor, Ali. In addition, Raffi’s lover and step-sister Celia (Marie-Josée Croze) is at odds with Ani over the unexplained death of her father.

This plethora of characters and relationships is only made more confusing by the film’s complete disregard for chronology, jumping from past to present to slightly less past, to even more past, to present, etc. Much of the dialogue is stilted and newcomer David Alpay does not make a very strong narrator. The conflict between Ani and Celia is totally confusing and seriously detracts from what is already a lot of new information to take in at once.

However, the film within the film is stunning, beautifully shot and brilliantly acted. Elias Koteas is fascinating in both his role as actor and as character. Bruce Greenwood is likewise inspiring with his commitment in both roles. In fact, the scenes with either of these two are the kind in which you simply cannot take your eyes off the screen. Aznavour’s performance as the aging director is also quite moving and Simon Abkarian’s Arshile Gorky manages to pull the heartstrings without ever saying anything.

It is these elements of the film that almost make it required watching. They are simply fantastic. But it is immensely frustrating that the script outside of the film within the film is so complicated and uninteresting. I wanted to see the film they were making, the historical epic, and not the story of how difficult it is to make such a film. This issue over the broader quest for an understanding of Armenian identity might be better suited for a book.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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