Farewell, Home Sweet Home
a.k.a. Adieu, plancher des vaches!
Farewell Home Sweet Home

French language. France, 1999. Unrated. 118 minutes.

Cast: Nico Tarielashvili, Lily Lavina, Otar Ioseliani, Philippe Bas, Stephanie Hainque, Mirabelle Kirkland, Amiran Amiranashvili, Emmanuel de Chauvigny, Narda Blanchet, Joachim Salinger
Writer: Otar Ioseliani

Cinematographer: Willaim Lubtchanksy

Music: Nicholas Zourabichvili

Producer: Martine Marignac

Director: Otar Ioseliani


Grade: D Review by Jeff Vorndam

Sometimes, I am thankful that very few foreign films get released in the United States. It preserves an illusion of uniform quality and perpetuates the myth that in Europe and the Far East, cinematic geniuses grow on trees. You could throw a rock in France and hit a better filmmaker than Joel Schumacher. Unless, that is, you hit Otar Ioseliani. Those who have heard of Ioseliani are probably drafting strongly worded letters to AboutFilm.Com right now. His latest film, Farewell Home Sweet Home, won an international critics prize as Best European Film last year. I want some of whatever they're smoking. The film is a seemingly endless wallow in Bunuelesque class comedy, neither funny nor profound. I was sorely tempted to walk out, but sat stupefied in my seat all the way to the end.

There is no plot, which in itself is not a bad thing. In this case, however, Ioseliani's slice-of-life approach cuts a very thin slice. A rich, nameless family of eccentrics conducts various affairs and engages in strange activities over the course of a few days. That's pretty much it. The main character is the son (Nico Tarielashvili), who leaves home in the morning and instead of going to school, changes clothes and pretends he's a street-person. He has a thief (Joachim Salinger) and a wino (Amiran Amiranashvili) for friends, and he spends his day cleaning dishes and trying to pick up a waitress (Stephanie Hainque) across the street. One of the themes of the movie is fluidity. One group of people blur into the next group. The rich pretend they're poor, and the poor pretend they're rich. Ioseliani's long tracking shots connect everyone together.Farewell Home Sweet Home

The boy never gets together with the waitress because she's swooped up by a guy on a motorcycle (whom we've previously seen inhabiting an apartment the size of a broom closet). One of the running "jokes" in the movie is that everyone in town takes their partners on a furtive romantic tryst to a houseboat that raises its flag whenever it's occupied. The boy's mother is one of those who has an affair. When she's not entertaining party guests with a stork on her shoulder (no, that's not a misprint), she takes the helicopter to work and sits on fresh paint while getting clients to sign the dotted line. She does everything but wear a fish for a wristwatch. The surrealism suggests a singular environment, one that is bizarre and incomprehensible, but is nonetheless home. Ioseliani adds an autobiographical feel by appearing in the film himself as the family's alcoholic patriarch, a man who piddles with his train set, screws the maid, and skeet shoots while drinking wine. Yeah, he's a lovable guy.

Farewell, Home Sweet Home eventually peters out, not so much finding a climax and a resolution as dropping dead from exhaustion. When the son's involvement with his vagrant friends ends in calamity, it's merely a speed bump in the story. It ends as it began, and the family resumes its oddball life as if nothing ever happened. While not as actively annoying as Trixie (another San Francisco Film Festival 2000 entry), I found Farewell Home Sweet just as tedious. Despite its comedic trappings, this film takes itself seriously. It's not mere entertainment. (It can't be!)

Review © June 2000 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 1999 All Rights Reserved.

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