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By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 27, 1994


Atom Egoyan
Atom Egoyan;
Arsinee Khanjian;
Ashot Adamian
Parental guidance suggested

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Brainy, Toronto-based filmmaker Atom Egoyan adds the static love triangle "Calendar" to his own series of cautionary tales on the danger inherent in communications technology. Basically, he believes that the better the equipment gets, the more alienated we become from our environment, each other, our gods and finally ourselves. While his point is well taken, ironically, in previous films such as "Speaking Parts" or "Family Viewing," Egoyan has never expressed it with heartfelt emotion.

In "Calendar," Egoyan makes a sincere attempt to open up to his audience when he steps from behind the camera to play a photographer who is more interested in setting up his shot than in what he is shooting. During a trip to Armenia, the self-absorbed protagonist photographs 12 historic Armenian churchs for a calendar. While he fusses with his cameras, his lively Armenian-speaking wife and translater (Egoyan's wife, Arsinee Khanjian) gradually falls in love with their charming and knowledgable guide (Ashot Adamian).

Of course, the photographer doesn't notice -- nor do filmgoers find out -- until the protagonist returns to Canada and reviews the videotape he made in Armenia. As the film cuts between grungy 8mm video and glossy 35mm footage, the truth slyly emerges with additional help from the messages his wife leaves on his answering machine. He tries to respond to her by letter, but he doesn't know how to communicate, and his attempts lie in a crumpled pile.

He tries to replace her with the help of an escort service, which supplies him with a harem of exotic, bilingual babes. In what becomes a tiresome running gag, the women, their eyes glazed over in boredom, all get up after dinner and ask to use the phone, whereupon they become their vivacious selves again. There's hope then for the telephone, but not, it seems, for our estranged shutterbug.

Egoyan the actor is more accessible than Egoyan the writer-director, whose approach remains far too cerebral to evoke more than intellectual interest. "Calendar" is still more a thesis than a true journey into the soul of an image-maker. Then again maybe the aboriginal people had it right. Cameras are soul-stealers.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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