Dir: Nana Djordjadze. Germany-Georgia, 2000. 96 mins.
Prod co: Egoli Films. Int'l sales: Wild Bunch (+33 1 4443 4384). Prods: Jens Meurier, Oliver Damian. Scr: Irakli Kvirikadze. DoP: Phedon Papamichael. Prod des: Vasha Dialagania. Editor: Vessela Martschewski. Music: Goran Bregovic. Main cast: Nuza Kuchianidze, Shaco Iashvilli, Evgeni Sidichin, Amalia Mordvinova, Pierre Richard, Levani.
Underground, Underground, so much to answer for. When, around halfway into this embarrassing piece of Slav whimsy, we see a tractor dragging a rusty ship across the countryside, driven by a shaggy-bearded French captain who has 'lost the sea', we are no doubt supposed to smile indulgently and see the spirit of Fellini, filtered by Kusturica, somewhere in a field in Georgia. But by this time most of us will be praying for a stray scud missile to put the stray sea dog (who knows a thing or two about cod) out of his misery. Though there are one or two moments of real humour, they are too weak to dispel a suspicion that this film is not as innocently crazy as it would have us believe.
What there is of a plot centres on the summer holiday of Sybille, a lithe, corkscrew-haired teenage girl who drops like dynamite into the life of a sleepy rural town. Actually, the fuse is never lit, and Sybille comes across as more stroppily obnoxious than sexily cantankerous. The missing kisses of the title are the ones never given of the hundred she had promised to her young cousin Mickey, who, like her, is racked by adolescent urges. This scribble of a story is just a peg on which to hang a series of whimsical cameos: the cuckolded soldier husband who fires cannon shots in the direction of his wife's open-air encounters, the lover who, keen to increase his potency, has an accident with some precision machinery. It's a farce, in other words - but with poetic pretensions.
Summer... is clearly going for the same audience as last year's Luna Papa - another German-backed film from the kooky southern fringe of the former Soviet Union. But while the film has the requisite sex, surrealism and crazy village characters, it is rarely, if ever, engaging, and outside of Russia and Germany - where it will no doubt be vigorously promoted - its prospects look dim.