(aka 'Ladoni' or 'Palms')

Directed by Artour Aristakisian
Russia 1993


Perhaps surprisingly for a film populated almost entirely with beggars, Palms has nothing to do with charity. Its real subject is proximity. In its relentless depiction of life at the margins and with its discomfiting jabs of authenticity, it is an affront to personal space. Why should this be so?

Part of the answer comes in a quote from John Berger’s essay Steps Towards a Small Theory of the Visible, in which, considering the current omnipresence and elusiveness of images, he describes the system outside of which the people in Palms exist. What are depicted, he says, “used to be called physical appearances because they belonged to solid bodies. Now appearances are volatile. Technological innovation has made it easy to separate the apparent from the existent. And this is precisely what the present system’s mythology continually needs to exploit. It turns appearances into refractions, like mirages: refractions not of light but of appetite, in fact a single appetite, the appetite for more.”1

In contrast to these fugitive appearances, there is no doubt that in Palms we are in the company of solid bodies, maimed and damaged bodies even, not seeking our attention or intervention, utterly indifferent to us at our safe distance, yet completely present. They feed no appetite, create no wealth, yet still they stubbornly exist, heavy with the affront of parasitic life.

One of the usual lures of cinema is the attraction of journeying in safety to places and with people you would not otherwise meet. Palms presents you with no seductive journeys. It does not care about you and it does not indulge you. It leaves you with nowhere to go except back on yourself, making you keenly aware of your own reaction – your disgust, your righteousness, your shame, the boundaries of your love. Watching Palms, you are no longer the centre of the world. How can you incorporate this place and its people? At times, the film even looks like it comes from another century. The flashes of modern clothing and accessories – a leather jacket, a handbag, a pushchair – belonging to people in the streets, seem incongruous.

In his words, with Palms, Aristakisyan presents a film of outsiders objectionable to the system. What makes them so? An answer comes at the beginning of Part Two with the epileptics, of whom he says that they “proved to be objectionable because they didn’t need to go anywhere. They were at the border between worlds and could see clearly.” It is this lack of need, this appetite only for necessities, that is objectionable.

A short excerpt from the Booklet essay by Graeme Hobbs which appears in the Booklet of the DVD release


  Theatrical Release: February 94' - Berlin Film Festival


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DVD Review: Second Run - Region 0 - PAL

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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL
Runtime 2:18:50 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.59 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Russian (Dolby Digital 1.0) 
Subtitles English, None

Release Information:
Studio: Second Run DVD

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Optionally subtitled interview with director Artur Aristakisyan (20:21)
• Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by Graeme Hobbs

DVD Release Date: August 27th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 12



Whether or not the worn, archive-like, quality of Aristakisyan's images are intentional, contrived or a true factor of limited production independence has little to do with its remarkably impacting film expression. Although it may initially distance one from the reality of the organic aura, as it progresses it brings a much stronger dynamic to his poetic manifesto. I've read about comparisons to Pasolini and even Tarkovsky - and I think both are apt. I can't add much more in describing the stark, contrasted screen captures below in describing the dual-layered, progressive transfer quality. They are grainy and fraught with minor to moderate damage marks. In essence - they are what they are.

Dialogue is almost exclusively narrated and although relatively weak - is both consistent and audible. There are some interludes with the music of Giuseppe Verdi. The optional English subtitles are adeptly rendered. The only digital extra is a 20 minute (also subtitled) interview with director Aristakisyan. It advances his motivations and impetus behind the film's evolution. A strong supplement. Also included is a 12-page liner notes booklet with photos and an excellent new essay by Graeme Hobbs.

This long running film is something very unique and heavily artistically based - those more infused with mainstream cinema will undoubtedly find it immensely depressing, although it borders on essential viewing for a redemptive, caring, forgiving and yes, even loving society. Recommended!

Gary W. Tooze



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Distribution Second Run DVD - Region 0 - PAL


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