Review by Sean Boelman
Rezo, directed by Levan Gabriadze, is a new animated documentary film telling the story of Georgian artist and writer Rezo Gabriadze (the father of the filmmaker). Thanks to the film’s unique and unusual art style, this manages to be a thoroughly entertaining documentary, even if the narrative does lean on the edge of rambling at times.
Certainly the most interesting thing about this film is its visual style. Although animated documentaries have been done before, the thing that helps Rezo stand out is the fact that it is illustrated by the subject himself, giving the film an even more personal feel than the most intimate of traditional documentaries.
Viewers will feel like they are watching a moving painting by Gabriadze, mostly because that is essentially what the film is. The quirky animation style is full-of-life, and gives the film a narrative momentum even when the subject matter being addressed is somewhat difficult. This art allows the audience to see the events of Gabriadze’s life through his own perspective.
In addition to the animation, the film features interviews with Gabriadze (the audio from which is frequently used as voiceover). When Gabriadze is actually seen, the composition is absolutely gorgeous, as it is built in a way that mirrors the art style of the animation. The use of color in these shots is thoroughly impressive.
Gabriadze is a very interesting subject, and his story is pretty wacky. Due to the very personal nature of the film, it frequently feels like Gabriadze is telling his story to a family member (and since his son directed the film, he pretty much is). Over the course of the film, viewers will come to admire Gabriadze’s work because of what they see, and admire his character because of what they hear.
Admittedly, Gabriadze’s story does become a bit far-fetched at times, though the zany animation makes it work. Gabriadze has undeniably lived an extraordinary and eventful life, and that lends itself to an extremely cinematic documentary. And seeing that the film clocks in at just over an hour of length, there are plenty of anecdotes to keep the film moving.
One of the most important things that this film has to offer, though, is a great appreciation of the art of storytelling. The subject of the film is a storyteller, the filmmaker is a storyteller, and the film purposes that anyone in the audience can be a storyteller as well because we all have a unique story. Granted, few people will have stories as unique as Rezo Gabriadze, but those stories are worth being told nonetheless.
A uniquely-made documentary with a wonderful story, Rezo is a personal and fascinating documentary. Though it may end up slipping under the radar, there are plenty of reasons why this film deserves attention.
Rezo is now playing in theaters.