JOURNEY TO ARMENIA (Robert Guédiguian). 125 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 13) at Canada Square. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Anna ( Ariane Ascaride ) is a brusque French cardiologist whose ailing father ( Marcel Bluwal ) disappears to his homeland of Armenia before he can undergo heart surgery. Anna follows him, visiting the country for the first time.
As quests go, Anna's is vague and unfocused, but it and a subplot involving black-market meds, an exotic dancer and a former general ( Gérard Meylan ) are really just a pretext for gorgeous scenery and history in thistravelogue about beleaguered Armenia.
The dialogue is pretty exposition-heavy. The locals are continually explaining things to Anna (although it's refreshing to hear the merits of communism, capitalism and other "isms" discussed in an even-handed way). Anna is imperious and hard to like, so Ascaride, who also co-wrote the film, deserves credit for making us care about what happens to her.
As the story unfolds, Anna and the audience are drawn in by the history of a country, once the nexus of all the great European empires, that's currently recovering from Soviet-style communism and yet retains its character and language.
Maybe that's the reason for Anna's Gallic version of the ugly American tourist: Armenia and its people seem even more beautiful by contrast.