A Call Girl

GreenCineStaff's picture

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***

Can you learn much about a particular society from watching a narrative film featuring a few characters from that society? My companion and I argued this point after watching A Call Girl, a Slovenian film from Damjan Kozole making its DVD debut this week and deals with the life of a college student/call girl, her family, friends, boyfriend, teacher and -- most frighteningly – two pimps who want her in their service. (Slovenia by the way, is the tiny country bordered by Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and the Adriatic Sea, whose history, as is true of many eastern European countries, particularly in the area of the Balkans, is full of competing cultures, wars, border disputes and uneasy truces.)

Coming from a small Slovenian town, our not-much-of-a-heroine Aleksandra (an alternately tough and vulnerable performance by Nina Ivanisin) takes to the big city in a big way, managing to find enough work under her preferred moniker “Slovenian Girl” (the film’s original title) to bankroll a nice new apartment. We meet Aleksandra as she’s about to service a very fat fellow who has popped a double dose of Viagra, and will soon be bidding bye-bye not just to sex but to the world.

From there our girl’s life becomes more and more complicated, as do her relationships with everyone around her, most noticeably her father, his best friend, her estranged mother, a school chum, her professor, an ex-boyfriend – and those nasty pimps. With the exception (maybe) of her dad, Aleksandra seems to take unfair advantage of just about everyone with whom she connects (the pimps, of course, deserve this – and we have mixed feelings about a few of the other characters). Yet this girl is out for herself, completely, and while we get “nurture” type glimpses of why this might be, her “nature” still seems a tad beyond our ken.

Co-writer/director Kozole, whose very dark 2003 film Spare Parts makes this one look practically sunny, gives us a surprisingly complete and truthful picture of his main character, and so, concerning her behavior, we are alternately with her and against her. Because of the “thriller” aspects, which linger over the film as a whole, viewers may expect some resolution, but Kozole refuses to provide one regarding any of the several unhealthy situations into which Aleksandra has placed herself. This may push away those viewers who demand resolution and closure; others will happily go with the flow.

So can you “read” a society by the actions of the people we see here? I suggest that Kozole is saying yes. Slovenia may have changed somewhat for the better since the filmmaker’s earlier movie, but the country is clearly still having trouble with some of its necessary connections – social, economic, political – glimpses of which we see throughout A Call Girl.

The Film Movement DVD includes (as they always do) a short film entitled Honored, directed by Stephanie Fischette. It stars Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men) as the widow of a military man, dead in Iraq, who gets a visit from her late husband’s army buddy. It’s a not-at-all convincing duet that conflates war, abortion and dismal psychology into something dry, airless and unreal.

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