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Review: ‘Rezo’ focuses on life of noted Georgian artist Gabriadze but shortchanges his work

‘Rezo’
A scene from the animated/live-action documentary “Rezo.”
(Stage Russia)

The animated/live action documentary “Rezo” by Leo Gabriadze is an affectionate but unfocused valentine to his father, Rezo Gabriadze, the noted Georgian illustrator, sculptor and screenwriter (“Mimino,” “Kin-dza-dza”). He’s also the creator of a celebrated marionette theater.

But “Rezo” gives the artist’s accomplishments short shrift. Nearly the entire film is devoted to anecdotes about growing up amid the devastation and poverty of the post-WW II Soviet Union. A bullied, bookish kid, Gabriadze was shuttled between his native village and his grandparents remote farm. In town, he dodged the local toughs and collected old cigarette butts: His grandfather salvaged the tobacco for his pipe. In the country, Rezo watched a German POW modernize the primitive family farm despite his grandfather’s stubborn opposition.

But Gabriadze recounts these seemingly random stories without explaining how they relate to his later achievements. The designs for the characters look like simple pen-and-ink drawings, and the animation is equally minimal. The puppetry of the touring Gabriadze Theater has been praised by critics around the world, but the filmmaker doesn’t include footage of the marionette plays or the artist’s paintings and illustrations.

“Rezo” would have been more effective as a conventional documentary using photographs of its subject’s work to supplement his recollections. Rezo Gabriadze comes across as a genial, unpretentious man. But the viewer sees too little of the internationally respected artist and leaves feeling shortchanged.

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Screening with “Rezo” is “Tweet-Tweet,” a pleasant but undistinguished animated short by Zhanna Bekmambetova.

'Rezo'
In Russian with English subtitles

Not rated

Running times: “Rezo,” 1 hour, 3 minutes; “Tweet-Tweet,” 12 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also Oct. 20, Laemmle Town Center, Encino; Oct. 21, Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Oct. 23, Laemmle Glendale


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