The Temptation of St. Tony
Directed by: Veiko Õunpuu
Saturday, November 13th, 10 p.m., Thalian Hall Black Box Box Theater
Sometimes movies are easy to define. They have a convenient plot, a standard cast of characters, and a traditional story that does very little to challenge us. Then there are films that try and make us think—cerebral films that require a little more of the audience. Then there are films like “The Temptation of St. Tony,” the kind of cinematic lunacy that almost defies explanation.
I’m a fan of “outside the box” filmmaking. Defying convention is something to be admired; although, at times, it’s difficult to appreciate. Film festivals like Cucalorus provide the perfect venue for a flick like “The Temptation of St. Tony.” The movie is such an oddball experience. On the surface, it’s 10 pounds of crazy in a five pound bag. Yet, there are layers to it—insane, crazy layers that take time to digest.
When discussing avant-garde cinema, a name like Fellini is often uttered. There are comparisons to be made here. Still, I think that a lot of people don’t really understand what Fellini represented. I had a friend in college who would always describe senseless movies as being “Fellini-esque.” The term was intended to describe Fellini’s gift of weaving reality and dreams into one seamless experience. It’s not a catch-all term to describe the bizarre.
“The Temptation of St. Tony” can wear the Fellini-esque badge without issue. The story is a strange tale of man who begins to question his morality. After attending a funeral for his father, he marches through a black-and-white dystopia, dealing with a number of peculiar locales and strange social situations. The film is reminiscent of a lot of post World War II cinema coming out of Eastern Europe: the crisp black-and-white photography matched with disconnected scenes of sense and senselessness.
It’s a reckless and restless drive that seems to examine the post-Communist era. Within the examination of morality comes the privileges that had been denied to a culture for so long. A culture clash between a new generation of wealthy upper class citizens and the beguiled poor whose lives have shown little improvement, despite the abandonment of Communism in favor of a “free” society. It’s heavy stuff, highly symbolic and open to varying interpretations. If nothing else, that’s what good film-festival cinema is about.
I was still talking about “The Temptation of St. Tony” several days after I watched it. Still pouring over the abstract nature of the story and trying to wrap my mind around what exactly I had seen. And I think that’s the highest compliment you can pay a festival film. Odd, intriguing