Format: 16mm/video Colour
Runtime: 75 min
Ego Film Arts
Accompanied by a local driver (Ashot Adamian), an insipid Canadian photographer (Atom Egoyan) and his lively wife (Arsinée Khanjian) tour their Armenian homeland, photographing twelve historic churches for a calendar. As the project progresses, the wife serves as translator, the driver becomes a guide and the photographer, a querulous aesthete who seems to be pushing his wife away, witnesses the disintegration of his marriage through his camera lens as his wife and the driver grow increasingly closer. Drawn to her roots, the wife stays in Armenia while the heartbroken photographer returns home. Back in Toronto, he tries to come to terms with his loss by recreating the situation through a string of scripted, lifeless dinner dates with exotic women. The two narratives are told simultaneously, with scenes from both storylines interwoven throughout the film.
Atom Egoyan and his wife and collaborator, Arsinée Khanjian, returned to their Armenian homeland to tell this oddly humorous tale that stands as one of Egoyan’s best and most overlooked films. Essentially about separation and (the lack of) national identity, it is certainly his most lighthearted work since his debut feature, Next of Kin (1984). Egoyan delivers a hilariously pathetic performance as the self-involved photographer, taking the pathology of his Camus-like outsider condition one step further into the realm of self-parody.
Calendar was originally to be funded by a cash prize Egoyan’s previous film, The Adjuster (1991), had won at the Moscow International Film Festival. But after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the prize, worth one million rubles, had devalued to about $3,000. A German backer stepped in, giving Egoyan $100,000 and carte blanche to make the film. As a result, Egoyan took the lead role himself (it had been intended for Don McKellar) and proceeded to shoot on 16mm without a script, improvising the entire picture.
Calendar received a limited release befitting its "art house" nature and was generally very well received by critics. Katherine Monk of the Vancouver Sun called it "probably the purest example of Egoyan’s cinematic vision and how he approaches the craft himself: by peeling away experience layer by layer, colour by colour, feeling by feeling." Egoyan’s direction and screenplay were both recognized with Genie Award nominations.