Life hands them lemons
"Vodka Lemon" is a sad but dignified lament about the people left behind in a dying Armenian mountain village that's lost its Soviet subsidies, its jobs and its younger generation.
By JOSHUA TANZER
More than once in the Armenian film "Vodka Lemon," we see villagers lugging some immense piece of household furniture down a remote, snow-covered road, and each time a passerby will stop them to ask, "Selling or buying?"
"Selling or buying?" could just as well have been the title of the film.|
"Vodka Lemon" is a somber portrait of life in a dying town. The Soviet subsidies are gone, as is anyone young and bright enough to have left the country for work elsewhere. Those left behind are scrabbling out a meager existence.
"Don't you miss the time when the Russians were here?" an old man asks his companion as they sit on chairs in the snow.
"No!" insists his friend. "We had no freedom then."
"No," agrees the man. "But we had everything else."
Without a lick of work in town, everyone is hustling in some way to scrape together a few precious U.S. dollars. Some are selling every personal possession they have left, from their televisions to their Red Army uniforms. One has a marriageable daughter who is (maybe) still a virgin, which means she'll bring a good price as a bride. One talented young woman has a job playing piano for tips in a Yerevan bar, although we suspect that when men in expensive cars pick her up for work it's not her musical talent she's being paid for.
Bleak but made with love, the film puts a warm, human face on what is really a colossal tragedy. The dislocation that the global economy has inflicted on American workers is serious but it's a passing shower compared to the tidal wave that has wiped out work for many in the former communist world. The people of "Vodka Lemon" are turning into ghost people as steadily as their town is turning into a ghost town, and what the film does is capture the dim glimmer of humanity in this place where the ancestors are buried and the youngsters have moved west. It's a story whose melancholy is matched with dignity.
|MARCH 27, 2004|
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Reader comments on Vodka Lemon:
slav from shwan ali. m, May 24, 2004
vodka from Haiko, Jan 25, 2006
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