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CANARY SEASON (Sezonat na kanarchetata)(director: Koreyoshi Kurahara; screenwriter: Nikolai Valchinov; cinematographer: Eli Yonova; editor: Yordanka Bachvarova; music: Kiril Dontchev; cast: Michail Alexandrov (Malin), Mikhael Dontchev (Young Malin), Plamena Getova (Young Lily), Paraskeva Djukelova (Old Lily), Ani Vulchanova (Margi); Runtime: 133; MPAA Rating: NR;Boyana Film; 1993-Bulgaria-in Bulgarian with English subtitles)
As enjoyable as a nightmare.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

If you want to see a glum film, then catch this one. If you aren’t depressed just by the film’s location in communist Bulgaria in the period between 1960-1990, then you will be after catching hold of the grim story and how heavy-handed it is and that the production qualities of the film were poor. A battered mother (Lily) is forced to tell her questioning troubled 20-year-old son (Malin) who was just released from prison, that he was born out of a rape and that she was such a lousy mother because circumstances that she couldn’t control prevented her from raising him. The mother’s life is told in flashback through a series of misadventures and hardluck stories with the inhuman Bulgarian communist officials. The impoverished woman is forced to marry her rapist in totalitarian communist Bulgaria, as he’s the son of an important party official. Then her mother-in-law (Paraskeva Djukelova) schemes to have her imprisoned in an asylum so that she would be isolated from her family and child. In the asylum, she is forced to have sex with the authorities and to work at slave labor. When she escapes after many years and is confronted by her now grown son who never had a stable home, she can only tell him her story as he looks at her with hatred. The film was as enjoyable as a nightmare. As a history lesson, it never enlightens as much as it hammers home the point of oppression being a way of life for the powerless in Bulgaria. The trouble is I’m not sure what I gained by seeing such suffering. Would one know more about the Holocaust if they witnessed someone in the gas chamber? Maybe some would feel so, but there’s a point of no return when conveying such bleak realism. I think this film mistakenly stayed on that one-note without getting to another plateau. It might catch the flavor of that time period in Bulgaria, but as a cinematic experience I would only recommend it for those who like being pedantically lectured to and have a need to feel depressed about things that are so blatantly evil and distant that there’s no real intellectual response except to concur that oppression is bad.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”