Fantaspoa 2014 Review: CHAMELEON (BUQÄLÄMUN), A Minimalist Azerbaijani Drama
I never expected to watch a film like Chameleon (Buqälämun) at Fantaspoa. This is not fantasy cinema at all but rather a minimalist drama and the very first Azerbaijani film I've ever seen. It is about people who are only connected through one occurrence, though the lack of a major plot stands out as well as a series of long static shoots.
Three main characters face the end of a period in their respective lives, with loneliness, nostalgia and unfairness as some of the themes touched. Although in terms of actions, almost nothing is happening with them. On the one hand, we follow a construction supervisor and his new assistant. They travel around in an old little car, checking out their workers, but the main thing is that the assistant is finally buying a house in the area where they work. This is the occurrence that allows us to meet other people from the area and that provokes a complete change of focus. In a quite strange move, to be fair, now the film is about the guy who is selling the house and the preparations he must do before seeing the payment.
Yes. Chameleon takes time to be about cleaning and repairing a house. This is tedious at times but still, there are some compelling details, with the directors trying to give us a taste of the working and living conditions in general of the people in this remote part of Azerbaijan (in "the middle of nowhere" as one lady says). The seller is not working the house as one of his father's old friends has gathered the necessary people to help him out. Cleaning? No problem, the man thinks, as there are many women around. Home repair? We can pay cheap and offer no food to a worker, so it's also not a problem.
Selling the house where one of your characters grew up is most certainly a good narrative device to bring in the nostalgia element. The film only does this shyly; some vintage photos bring memories to the seller but he doesn't communicate much to the audience. The other protagonists, the supervisor and assistant, aren't much communicative either, but between them there's another incident that at least makes us think more. When Chameleon ends it might make you feel absolutely cold, but there are enough meaningful situations (painful for the characters) to keep thinking about it. Only lasting little more than one hour, it is both not very enjoyable and more interesting than other films with the same characteristics.
Chameleon had its Latin American premiere at Fantaspoa.