Little boxes, numbered to mark the passing of days, in a block with a picture atop them, a warm image against the cool order of the boxes. This is what a calendar is and what filmmaker Egoyan's Calendar
is. The latest from the writer/director (Speaking Parts, The Adjuster)
consists of 12 tidy segments, all structured alike, with shots of rolling countrysides, ancient churches, beauty, and life set against the film's formal structure and the coolness of the protagonist, a photographer (Egoyan) whose wife left him during a trip to Armenia where he was photographing churches for a calendar. In each section -- one for each month -- a shot of the calendar leads us back to Armenia and his trip. Always, we are in the photographer's place, behind a camera, seeing the photographer's wife (Khanjian) translate the words of a native (Adamian) who escorts them to the churches and her vain attempts to get her husband to become part of the landscape instead of just a recorder of it. He refuses and watches his wife drift away from him, toward the land and culture of her ancestors and another man. Each section ends with the photographer back home having dinner with a woman from an escort service. As part of a ritual, she asks to use the phone and has a conversation in a language not English, so Egoyan's character can relive his wife's infidelity. The film's form is intriguing and carefully done, but it leaves no room for revelations. By the third segment, we know where Egoyan is going and must be resigned to seeing only the unfolding of the inevitable. Unfortunately, this means watching Egoyan's self-absorbed artist be an unwavering prick, and it's as easy for us to weary of him as it is for his wife. (In fairness to Egoyan, his acting is impressive.) Khanjian is a warm counterpoint to the frigid Egoyan, openly showing us how Armenia entrances her and brings her to new life. She is one reason the film lingers in the mind. Another is that the film works as a fugue, repetitive yet somehow revealing new sounds. Egoyan's boxes pass by, all the same, but we can still divine from them new insights: into history, spirituality, structures, what lasts, and the things that bind and separate us.