DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Call Girl

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Call Girl

Call Girl (2009) dir. Damjan Kozole
Starring: Nina Ivanisin, Peter Musevski, Primoz Pirnat, Marusa Kink, Uros Furst


By Alan Bacchus

Free market capitalism in the still relatively young communist-free and EU unified country of Slovenia gets a sharp critical treatment in Damjan Kozole’s engaging festival drama, previously entitled ‘Slovenian Girl’. In the past few years, the quality of films examining the effect of the late/post Commy era is astounding. Unfortunately over its festival run last year Call Girl didn’t garner the attention that say, those Golden Age Romanian filmmakers seem to get. It’s a shame, but thankfully Film Movement picked it up, and it's now available on DVD as their August DVD of the Month.

Alexandra is a typical twenty-something gal. She’s moved to the bustling city of Ljubljana from her humble rural childhood in 'the country’. Once in the big city she finds herself quickly corrupted by the attraction of wealth, the need for an education and the discovery of the power of her burgeoning womanhood. When the film starts she’s just told her best friend she’s bought a fancy new apartment downtown. How can she afford such luxury as a student? Somewhere along the line she’s turned to prostitution to pay her way. But not the street hooker or cracked out pimp-clinging type, but a private enterprise newspaper call girl with integrity. Having sex with the occasionally guy doesn’t seem to bother her if it’s a means to an end, but two events quickly put a wrench in her five-year plan – 1) the death of one of her clients from a Viagra overdose and 2) the introduction of a couple of gangster pimps who control the market of prostitutes.

Suddenly Alexandra has to quit tricking, which means she can’t pay the mortgage, which means she’s so stressed she’s failing her classes. During this well orchestrated plotting, which, under the sure hand of director Kozole, comes off like a razor sharp, nail-biting thriller. While evading the pimps Alexandra desperately avoids the one person who could help her out of the mess, her father.

Under the guise of a thriller, Kozole manages to draw attention to the egregious crimes of the sex trafficking business which afflicts much of these Eastern European nations. Kozole’s elegant direction, which compliments Alexandra’s level-headedness and accessible character, separates it from the kitchen sink European social realist films of the Dardennes or those Golden Age Romanians (ie Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days). A marvelous set piece anchors this first half, a tense meeting and stand off between Alexandra and the pimp gangsters in her hotel room, which leads into a desperate cat and mouse chase across town.

The second half deepens the relationship of Alexandra and her father, a tenuous relationship, but one which she cherishes so much she refuses to ask for his help. Without saying it, we know she desperately wants her father’s forgiveness and protection, but she can’t bear the devastation it would cause her father if he knew the truth. It’s a warm, honest and subtle relationship, but unfortunately the film seems to be missing a third act. Curiously, the threat of the gangsters dissipates and never materializes substantially in the second half. Same with the open case of her dead client, Alexandra seems to be let off the hook.

As such, despite a glorious opening Call Girl loses its vice-like grip on the audience for a slower, more melancholy release of tension. Twenty years from now though we’ll look on this period of time as an notable era of post-Communist/post EU unification filmmaking, stories of the lure of capitalism and the lengths and risks ordinary people will do to grab the carrot of success.

‘Call Girl’, a 2009 TIFF Selection, is now available on DVD from Film Movement Canada. Click HERE for more information.

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