There’s a restless, bustling nervous energy to this Georgian movie from 1978; it’s a romantic comedy of manners from director and co-writer Lana Gogoberidze with a freewheeling kind of New Wave feel, set in a city for which the term Swinging Tbilisi isn’t quite right, but certainly a busy, modern place for busy, modern people.
Georgian actor Sofiko Chiaureli, known for her collaborations with Sergei Parajanov and an icon for her appearance in his The Colour of Pomegranates, plays Sofiko, a high-powered newspaper interviewer, known for her sympathetic “human interest” pieces featuring ordinary women telling her about their lives. Sofiko is always dashing about town in her mackintosh and quizzical glasses (which make her look a bit like Isabelle Huppert) accompanied by dishevelled photographer Irakli (Janri Lolashvili), who may be in love with her.
Sofiko loves her demanding job and doesn’t much mind all the readers who pester her for help with everything. But she has troubles: her boss wants to move her to another position on the paper: the “editorial secretary” comes with a higher salary but no glamorous interviewing – a job which, as he pointedly remarks, will leave Sofiko more time for her family, which comprises her ailing mother, who lives with them, her two boisterous children and a husband, Archili (Gia Badridze), who is cheating on her. Sofiko’s hectic life, which Gogoberidze shows us is stimulating and depressing at the same time, is interspersed with setpiece fragments from her interviews and strange flashbacks: she remembers a woman furious at her straying husband suddenly panicking when Sofika offered to write an article “outing” him.
She has discovered her husband’s infidelity from glimpsing him meet another woman in the city centre, and this movie interestingly resembles Coppola’s The Conversation, in that it is about someone eavesdropping on other people’s lives while also eavesdropping on her own. There are pleasingly surreal, poignant bursts of poetry in the dialogue: thoughtful Archili notes that animals are slim and healthy because they have to walk everywhere, and concludes: “The 21st century will be a pedestrian century.” He also muses: “Apparently ants can fly, but only when they’re in love.” This movie is itself often airborne.