Saturday, September 11, 2010

Girl from Slovenia

A Call Girl

Directed by Damjan Kozole

Released on September 7, 2010

Damjan Kozole’s A Call Girl concerns a student whose move from the provinces to Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, includes her becoming the title character. This type of fish out of water story has often been told onscreen, but for all its familiarity, A Call Girl remains fresh, thanks to Kozole’s sober approach and actress Nina Ivanišin, who gives a breathtaking performance as Alexandra.

Sick of small-town life, Alexandra seems content in Ljubljana: learning English by day and working as a prostitute by night, her anonymity in the big city is appealing. After a German politician dies of a heart attack while with her, she finds herself on the run from the cops, who want to question a hooker named “Slovenian girl,” and from local pimps. Eventually, Alexandra returns home, where her father Edo is trying to get his old rock band going again: despite her antipathy toward the place, she realizes it might save her.

At times, Kozole presents Alexandra’s situation in routine fashion, as when she runs for her life from or is being dangled upside down off a balcony by thugs. Perhaps Kozole hasn’t thought out his heroine’s conflict, which rears its head at two crucial moments. When she’s failing a course because she missed an exam, Alexandra tells her professor she had a tumor surgically removed and, later, when she’s defaulting on a loan, she tells the bank representative she needs time because--you guessed it--her father has a tumor.

Would both a college professor and a bank employee fall for an obviously desperate stratagem? Maybe so, but it smacks too much of a dramatic shortcut so Kozole can continue the story. Still, these are rare false steps for a movie that reveals details of everyday life; there are many marvelously low-key scenes when Alexandra spends time with her dad or old friends where A Call Girl (the original title, Slovenian Girl, is more evocative but less exploitative) puts real life onscreen.

Nothing would work without Ivanišin, who so immerses herself in the part that it seems like we’re watching a documentary. Of course, that she’s completely unknown to our eyes helps, but her believable portrayal of a confused young woman who thinks she’s tougher, smarter and more mature than she really is makes one look forward to her next movie.

That goes for Kozole too. His final sequence, homing in on Alexandra as her dad’s band takes a crack at Frank Zappa’s profane “Bobby Brown,” brilliantly shows her loneliness, desperation and a touch of sadness as she sings along absentmindedly while standing outside the club, smoking. It’s the perfect ending to a perfectly muted character study.

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