The 2014 Foreign Language Oscar nominee with the lowest profile, the modest, graceful, glowingly shot Estonian-Georgian “Tangerines” (Mandariinid) is a splendid example of a narrative drawing the larger picture from a small one, capturing the effects of Eastern European civil wars on an average man after the fall of the Soviet Union. Writer-director Zaza Urushadze’s story is set in the separatist region of Abkhazia as war between Georgia and the region’s ethnic Estonians approaches, but the politics fade into smaller schemes, as a rural tangerine grower (graceful, poignantly expressive Lembit Ulfsak) takes two wounded fighters, one from each side of the conflict, into his home after a deadly battle. If they recover, they’ll likely try to kill each other. For now… the timeless dance of men discovering the virtues of peace versus war. Simple, direct and achingly melancholy, “Tangerines” unfolds in a setting that feels timeless. Urushadze’s filmmaking feels timeless, too, and it’s rich, lovingly observed, masculine work that successfully shrugs off the temper of “macho.” With Raivo Trass, Giorgi Nakashidze. 96m. (Ray Pride)
“Tangerines” opens Friday, May 1 at Landmark Century and Renaissance.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.