Sunday, March 8, 2009

A first taste of Bulgarian Cinema: Do we really want more?

Hey eager beavers, watch this trailer

For all of you Bulgarian cinema aficionados out there who are reading this post (probably a good amount of you) I am sure you have all seen ZIFT, a film that many Bulgarians have hailed as "The revival of Bulgarian cinema." For those of you that have not seen it, I must pose the question: if this truly is the best of the best from Bulgaria, do we really want Bulgarian cinema to see the light of day? You've all watched the trailer, correct? What did you think about it? Not much, seeing as all your attention was directed at a fucking flying eyeball right? But really, It looked pretty intense, am I wrong? Dialogue seems catchy enough, the song they chose definitely sets a pace that draws in Bulgarians and non-Bulgarians alike, and the cinematography looks gorgeous...You poor fools, you poor, poor, naive fools...

Don't fret, myself and Eric were equally taken by it and decided to attend a screening at the Gene Siskel Film Center. 92 minutes later we had tasted Bulgarian cinema and were full. Don't get me wrong, It's not an awful film, on the contrary, what it did well it did really well, but in the end the good just didn't make up for the bad. The film opens with a story about a young man losing his job at the sewage plant by unloading 2 and a half tons of human fecal matter into his wife's lover's home. Not only does the story explain the movie's title, Zift, Bulgarian for Shit as well as asphalt, but it is well written, it is genuinely funny dialogue. That's about it for a while. Director Javor Gardev subjects us to strange cuts, less than acceptable writing and acting, as well as pacing that does little for the audience and the film alike.

The gist of the story is, and please keep up, I will be moving fast and will not wait up; Moth, a man who has recently been released from prison where he has spent the last 16 years doing time for a murder he didn't convict, is captured by an old associate, Slug, who poisons him to get the location of a diamond the 2 of them tried to abscond with in '44. Moth escapes and rendezous with the woman he once called inamorata, Slug's poison flowing through his body seriously deteriorating both his physical abilities and his acting abilities. The 2 of them do it all over a rug, nasty like, and then leave to dig up the diamond which Moth has hidden in the body of an old man. The woman, upon arriving in the graveyard, betrays Moth by giving up their location to Slug, who shows up only to be beaten to death by Moth who, in turn, is beaten to death by his ex-lover. The last scene of the movie is Moth, curled up all fetal like, spinning in circles for a good 3 minutes.

The first thing that really stands out once the film is over is it's pacing. The story moves along very erratically, having really only 3 memorable scenes that keep a stomachable pace (these also being the most action packed scenes in the film). The rest of ZIFT is either very slow moving where it needs not be or very fast, not spending enough time where time should be spent. Dialogue also leaves much to be desired. The best dialogue in the movie is delivered by a group of patients in a hospital waiting room where Moth is being treated. They tell of a Bulgarian superstar who skis pantless down a mountain only to break her legs (Hilarious stuff, I know). In my professional opinion (and we all know how much weight that carries. The dialogue here is smart. It's funny. Nothing like the dialogue that is to come. Much of the rest of the dialogue, save for snippets of sexist banter, is dry, cliched, and all around poorly constructed. As for acting, well, bad acting is bad acting no matter what hat you dress it in, period.

I guess I owe Zift some praise when it comes to cinematography. Gardev successfully creates the classic Film Noir feel through lighting and his choice to shoot the entire film in a gritty black and white style. Also, many of the shots are well executed and sometimes, dare I say it, beautiful. Sadly though, these are not enough to lift ZIFT from the filth that it is so aptly named after. Nice try Bulgaria but if this truly is the movie to revive Bulgarian cinema then maybe you should stick to the production of Sunflowers, both are nice to look at but only one can be used in the production of Hypoallergenic Rubber (And God knows we need more of that).

PS. Hey Bulgarians, Maybe be a little more respectful from now on when other nationalities are trying to watch your sub-par movies, just because a joke is Bulgarian doesn't mean you can start talking in non-American. There may have been subtitles but I still like to hear the movie...


  1. That was a good use of the word abscond up there.
    Additionally, I agree with much of what was said by the Daniel. Cinematography classic, writing mostly wonderful, cuts CRAZY, and acting abominable.
    I am SO for more Bulgarian sunflowers.

  2. Edit your grammar, sir. And from what I understand, classic film noir spans the forties and fifties.

  3. so... I watched that trailer.
    It looks like that movie crank.
    Crank was rushed and one dimensional.
    But at least no one's eye flew out.