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Thursday, February 05, 2009
PIFF film # 4 - Mermaid
If Amelie had been born in a small Russian fishing village instead of Paris she would have probably turned out a lot like Alisa, the precocious hipster heroine of this incredibly quirky and really weird fantasy film. Things like Mermaid just don't get made in the states. Here's a quick rundown on the premise:
Alisa is a free-spirited girl living in a seaside ramshackle made out of empty water bottles with her overbearing mother and senile grandmother. She wiles away her days dreaming of the day her father, who she can't quite remember and thinks might resemble the monster from Bioshock, will return. She desperately wants to become a ballerina and she can magically make things happen ala that kid in Firestarter when she gets overly emotional. After a fire destroys their home, the family relocates to Moscow where Alisa grows up and gets a job handing out fliers on the street while dressed in a cell phone costume. She later saves the life of a self-destructive entrepreneur who sells plots of land on Mars to millionaires with too much money and time on their hands. Oh, and one afternoon a huge soccer riot breaks out after Alisa has a bad day at work.
Director Anna Melikyan turns Moscow into a vibrant, electric wonderland reminiscent of Sofia Coppola's portrait of Tokyo in Lost in Translation. Don't judge the movie by its cloying trailer and its fairly terrible first ten minutes. Mermaid and its offbeat, Beck-lookalike protagonist should be an annoying mess but somehow it works like a rusted-out VW van with 500,000 miles on the odometer. Just when you think the movie is going to finally fall into the cliches of your typical romantic comedy it jumps the rails with a finale that slaps you across the face like a sloppy, radioactive smooch from Chernobyl. It's a damn shame that only around fifty people in the US will see this one.