The actual title of the film called in the States Farewell, Home Sweet Home is Adieu, plancher des vaches!, whose English translation would be Farewell, Cow Floor! Nineteenth-century sailors thus commented on the unpleasantness of accommodations they were leaving and expressed hope that their next accommodations would be better—which they hardly ever were. From France, Switzerland and Italy, this whimsical fable reminiscent of Jacques Tati and the later French work of Luis Buñuel and Râúl Ruiz portrays a contemporary Paris of disenchantment, with an Altmanian brace of characters seeking some sort of escape—escape that at least will make their lives more bearable and, hopefully, even transform those lives. Writer-director Otar Iosseliani, a Soviet/Georgian-born student of music and mathematics, received the European Film Critics’ prize for this film.
Its characters include a wealthy businesswoman (her spouse, played by Iosseliani, keeps to himself and plays with electric trains), the homeless, immigrants, café owners and laborers, other laborers, a veterinarian, an elderly woman who lives by herself and becomes a victim of street thugs upon her return from the bank, etc. Theirs are intricately crisscrossing existences. There are also lots of animals: dogs, a pet stork, a goat.
At the center of the film’s kaleidoscope of activities is Nicholas, the son of the wealthy couple, who befriends outcasts and washes windows and dishes. Slipping into anonymous unimportance is a way for him to feel “connected.”
Iosseliani’s film plays with time and space, sparkles with wit, and grows a little thin in its pointed repetitiousness before releasing a conclusive series of surprises.
Iosseliani prefers distanced shots to closeups, stressing the (sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously) collaborative song of humanity. He offers a different explanation in an interview included on the Facets DVD; but that’s another story.
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