ATOM EGOYAN’S CALENDAR
ART FILM OF THE WEEK
For less than $80,000, Atom Egoyan (Exotica, The Sweet Hereafter, Where the Truth Lies)—the art-house and independent Canadian director—concocted a treasure trove of enigmatic, improvised delight with his minimalist moral tale in Calendar.
On a road trip to discover the best-looking Armenian churches for a calendar that he has been commissioned to shoot, a young photographer, his luscious and free-spirited wife, and a seemingly feckless translator/guide travel across the magnificent countryside. Along the way, the photographer (played subtly by Egoyan himself) becomes impatient with the trip, as he notices a slow progression of a more-than-just-friends bond between the guide and his wife (played by Egoyan’s actual spouse, actress Arsinee Khanjian).
The entire film is an exercise in awesome improvisation, as the production team was literally made up of Egoyan, his wife, and his guide (for those scenes shot in Armenia). In producing these scenes for the film, the trio would literally drive from church to church—usually with a good six hours or more between each—and brainstorm what would be the next scene as they drove.
Egoyan, as the photographer, shot these scenes with a delightfully late 80’s video camera to produce something that reads as wholly realistic, especially as the other “actors” (wife and guide, who happened to be their actual guide on the trip, PS) would talk to Egoyan behind the camera, his character never being seen during these sequences.
Exceptional formal technique incorporates video tricks such as onscreen fast-forwards from video footage culled from the Armenian trip and watched later on by Egoyan’s character back home in Canada. These sequences of the distraught protagonist back home watching the video footage from his trip are interspliced with the shots of the trip themselves, as well as delightfully sardonic and self-deprecating scenes of Egoyan on various “dates” that go horribly awry.
Egoyan, the protégé of fellow Canuck David Cronenberg, is among the top of the greatest contemporary filmmakers for his endeavors that lead to thought-provoking interpretation.
His films are whimsical, yet filled with melancholy; always lurid, entertaining, amusing, dark, and multi-layered.