Seamstresses

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Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Nobody would dream of calling "Seamstresses" ("Sivacki") world-class filmmaking, and it hasn't a prayer of commercial distribution anywhere including in Bulgaria, where it was made for local television. But its production values are just high enough and its subject matter and way of looking at the world just different enough to interest festival organizers seeking to add spice to their programming from a place seldom if ever heard from.

Three attractive young women, tired of the precarious employment situation in their hometown, decide to light out for the capital, Sofia, to make their fortune--or at least survive. Alas, the kind of work they are offered, as call girls, is not what they had in mind, so two of them have to settle for working in a butcher shop, while the third lands a coveted job as a cocktail waitress. In the meantime, they are forced to share an apartment with a small-time Lothario and his wife, along with a long-haired rock musician and his on-again-off-again girlfriend.

The basic premise, of course, sounds uncannily like that of a sitcom, but the difference here is that one of the girls (who bears a startling resemblance to Chiara Mastroanni) only too eagerly jumps in bed with the Lothario, declaring herself an irredeemable "bad girl," all the while feeling guilty about betraying his wife, who's been very helpful to her. The behavior of the other two girls is equally conflicted and, most importantly, always unpredictable. It's also usually accompanied by a generous helping of gratuitous clothing-removal.

Later on, the film shifts tone drastically to become a serious drama when one of the girls, rejected by her lover, tries to commit suicide by lying naked in front of an open window in the middle of winter. Much cheerier is her friend's relation with the rock musician. He's one of most attractive figures in the film, since he gets all the best, often genuinely funny, lines.

Writer-director Lyudmil Todorov doesn't seem quite sure how to end the film, so the finale seems rather tacked on, though at a brisk 87 minutes, it's hard to imagine how it could be trimmed.

What is perhaps most persuasive, finally, about the offbeat "Seamstresses" is that while it superficially resembles both American films and television shows, the attitudes and world view expressed therein couldn't be more different. It turns out that people aren't, in fact, basically the same everywhere.

Production Companies: Crosspoint, Bulgarian National Television. Cast: Alexandra Surchadzhieva, Elen Koleva, Vileta Markovska, Asen Blatechki, Nona Jotova, Filip Avramov, Julian Vergov. Screenwriter/director: Lyudmil Todorov. Producers: Petya Braykova, Vlado Shishkov, Bayko Braykov. Director of photography: Emil Christov. Production designer: Georgi Todorov. Editor: Nina Altuparmakova. Sales: Crosspoint.

No rating, 87 minutes.

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