The Color of the Chameleon
...über-stylish spy-movie pastiche... Dimitri Eipides
Directed by: Emil Christov
Written by: Vladislav Todorov (based on his novel Zincograph)
Genre: Dark Comedy/Political Spy Thriller
A maniacal informant creates his own phantom secret-police department. He recruits a group of unsuspecting intellectuals to spy on each other and after the fall of communism uses his secret archive to wreak havoc on the government. The movie offers a paradoxical twist in the standard representation of totalitarianism as a society of victims and victimizers. This is a story without innocents. Secret policing reveals its dark nature not only in its nauseating cruelties, but most suggestively in its deviant pleasures.
European Film Awards Selection 2013
Variety 10 Euro Directors to Watch 2013
Karlovy Vary IFF 2013
Bulgarian Film Academy Awards 2013
Won 8 awards out of 11 nominations including: Best Feature Film, Best Directorial Début, Best Lead Actor, Best Screenplay
Bulgarian National Film Fest 2012 Grand Prix Award Golden Rose
Мариан Цуцуй пред в. Култура http://www.kultura.bg/bg/article/view/20246
Най-открояващият се сред пълнометражните филми е „Цветът на хамелеона”. Въодушевяваща е смесицата от абсурдна комедия и политически трилър, където мистериозен мъж по време на комунизма успява да изгради своя собствена мрежа от информатори сред интелектуалците. Филмът е разказан атрактивно, заснет е безупречно, изигран е страхотно от Рушен Видинлиев и другите актьори. За разлика от останалите филми, където от смесването на жанровете става гювеч, тук всичко е изпипано много прецизно, като в аптека. Може би ми е толкова свиден, защото и аз съм от посткомунистическа страна и ми харесва гротеската, чрез която копае миналото и излиза смрадта... За жалост, не съм чел романа „Цинкограф”, нито съм гледал „Дзифт”, за да правя сравнения. Но мога да кажа друго – че у нас все още не се е появил нито такъв тип роман, нито такъв филм.
Журито с председател Иван Павлов аргументира по следния начин решението си да удостои с голямата награда режисьорския дебют на известния оператор Емил Христов:„Отличието се връчва за гражданската смелост, силата на сатирата и единството на идея, жанр и визия, с които е показана уязвимостта на обикновения човек във време на политически ужас и исторически абсурд“.
Главният персонаж във филма (Руши Видинлиев) оцелява в условията на перверзната тоталитарна система само благодарение на хамелеонската си природа. Но оставен без надзор към края на тоталитарния режим, той се превръща в стряскащо подобие на Франкенщайн, което отмъщава по дяволски изобретателен начин на своите създатели, пренасяйки собствената си безличност върху „живота на другите“. Впрочем, това е само една от многобройните препратки към знакови заглавия от историята на киното. Подобно на „Бразилия“ на Тери Гилиъм, във филма на Емил Христов химерата на (анти)героя му катастрофира в култовия „Казабланка“.
Патосът на този блестящ постмодернистичен пастиш е насочен срещу деформиращата роля на тайните служби, които подобно на процеса в цинкографията превръщат всичко и всички в клишета на перверзни образци на поведение. Според собственото му признание, Емил Христов се е опитал да отговори на въпроса за причините, направили възможна чудовищната трансформация, засегнала толкова много хора по време на т.нар. демократичен преход в България.
Особено впечатляват находчивостта и майсторството, с които филмът не само балансира между популярни жанрове като мелодрамата и трилъра, но и подлагайки ги на иронично подронване, успява в крайна сметка да разкрие драмата на човешкото обезличаване. Парадоксалната конспиративна теория за прехода, предложена от създателите на„Цветът на хамелеона“, е всъщност сполучлива метафора на вторичното, безкрайно клиширано и абсурдно съществуване, което продължават да водят повечето българи дори и след края на соца у нас.
Социалистический нуар АНДРЕЙ ПЛАХОВ
Событием 17-го Международного кинофестиваля в Софии стал болгарский фильм "Цвет хамелеона" — режиссерский дебют известного оператора Эмила Христова. Своими впечатлениями делится АНДРЕЙ ПЛАХОВ.
Это кино, снятое в грязноватой гамме (таков цвет хамелеона), в какие-то моменты взрывается брызгами алой крови на машинном стекле или нереальной курортной зеленью "офшорной зоны". Жанр картины экзотичен и эклектичен: американский ретронеонуар перемешан со сталинским ампиром, как будто бы сюжет Говарда Хоукса разыграл перед камерой в своих декорациях Алексей Герман, а потом к монтажу подключили Квентина Тарантино.
Герои фильма весьма эксцентричны: они всасывают улиток через нос, устраивают крестовые походы в поисках ногтей Иисуса Христа и борются с плотскими желаниями, разводя кроликов или затягивая свои телеса в смертельно тугой корсет. Действие происходит в антимире реального социализма, а главным героем оказывается идеальный агент, без всякого труда завербованный спецслужбами. Дело в том, что ложь преследует Батко Стаменова с рождения и всю жизнь: его родители считаются погибшими, воспитавшая его тетка признается, что на самом деле является его матерью, а на смертном одре выясняется, что она почила девственницей.
Человек со стертой личностью охотно становится рыцарем плаща и кинжала, подписывая протокол о сотрудничестве и получая два куриных яйца с инструкциями внутри: первое надо вскрыть, когда падет социализм в СССР, второе — когда то же самое случится в Болгарии. Новоявленный агент делает успешную карьеру и вскоре уже возглавляет отдел S.E.X, цель которого — стимулировать "организованные формы оргазма". Для этого надо проникнуть в так называемый Клуб нового мышления Speculum
(латинское название означает зеркало, а также прибор для медицинского осмотра вагины). В клубе собираются, выражаясь современным языком, представители креативного класса, которые обсуждают диссидентский роман "Цинкограф". Теперь уже Стаменов, причем вполне успешно, обрабатывает их на предмет стука, но когда его самого выкидывают из спецслужбы, начинает собственную игру, притворяясь агентом то КГБ, то ЦРУ, то британской разведки.
Пять лет назад на том же Софийском фестивале я посмотрел фильм "Дзифт" и стал следить за творчеством его режиссера Явора Гырдева. В "Дзифте" тоже было много забавного: хотя бы гротескный криминальный мир Софии, где бывшие подельники пытают главного героя электрошоком и поджигают кишечные газы спичками. "Дзифт" получил приз на ММКФ, попал в Америку, где Гырдеву предложили кинопостановку с бюджетом в $50 млн. По техническим причинам он не смог реализовать свой болгарский проект под названием "Цинкограф" и передал его своему оператору. Так появился на свет "Цвет хамелеона", снятый в том же стилевом ключе "социалистического нуара".
Сломать стереотип болгарского кино кинематографисты пытались еще во времена социализма, делая дилетантские, но обаятельные пародии на западные детективы. Сегодня за это дело взялись профессионалы — культуролог Владислав Тодоров написал сценарий и "Дзифта", и "Цвета хамелеона". Оба фильма пронизаны брутальным балканским юмором (но ничего общего с Кустурицей!) и пародируют как монументальный соцреализм, так и фашистскую эстетику. Но, пожалуй, на фоне этих постмодернистских игр неожиданно освежающим оказалось включение в структуру картины сюжета классической "Касабланки": шпионская пародия отлично соединилась с киноманской романтикой.
Montreal IFF of New Cinema 2012
Stockholm IFF 2012
THESSALONIKI IFF 2012
Chicago European Union Film Showcase 2013
INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF INDIA, GOA 2012
PALM SPRINGS IFF 2013
New Directors/New Films 2013
The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center
Belgrade IFF 2013
SOFIA IFF 2013
VILNIUS IFF 2013
Istanbul IFF 2013
Bucharest IFF 2013
St. Paul IFF Minneapolis 2013
River Run IFF 3013
Tarkovsky IFF "Zerkalo"
Edinburgh IFF 2013
EAST END FILM FESTIVAL London 2013
Saint Petersburg International Film Festival 2013
Filmfest Hamburg 2013
Toronto IFF 2012 Official Selection Discovery Program http://tiff.net/filmsandschedules/tiff/2012/colorsofchameleon
PROGRAMMER'S NOTE by Dimitri Eipides
In Emil Christov's über-stylish spy-movie pastiche, a charismatic schemer in an authoritarian police state, fired from his job as a secret-police informant, conjures up his own imaginary spy network and builds up an archive that he turns against his former masters.
Batko Stamenov (Ruscen Vidinliev) is the ideal secret agent. Orphaned at an early age, he was adopted by his aunt, who later confessed to having been his real mother. But when she passes away and the doctor informs Batko that she died a virgin, it becomes clear to him that lying is a family trait. So when he’s approached by a member of the secret police who wants to recruit him as a spy, he’s more than happy to oblige. For his first mission, he is assigned to infiltrate the so-called "Club for New Thinking." This subversive student group meets to discuss a pseudo-philosophical novel called Zincograph, which tells the story of a raving lunatic who works at the Royal Zincography by day, and by night creates an ever-expanding — and wholly fictional — web of spies and saboteurs that bamboozles the country’s actual secret police.
Batko takes the lesson of Zincograph — that secrecy is both the weapon and the bane of espionage — to heart when he is unfairly dismissed from the department. His ego bruised, Batko takes his revenge when he conjures up an imaginary secret service department — to which he cheekily appends the acronym SEX — out of whole cloth. Thanks to his natural ability to lie through his teeth, he manages to recruit each and every member of the "Club for New Thinking" into his fictional espionage network, and soon has them all incessantly spying on each other. From the reports of his "agents," Batko builds up his own private archive of classified information — one that he will later use to wreak havoc on the government that spurned him.
Ferociously satirical and all too believable, Emil Christov’s über-stylish spy-movie pastiche is a dark political comedy that both castigates and celebrates the actions of its slick, irresistibly charismatic anti-hero. In this caustic vision of an authoritarian police state, there are no victims or victimizers, but only an enormous web of complicity and collaboration where the oppressors can have their own weapons turned against them.
The Globe & Mail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/awards-and-festivals/tiff/tiff-reviews/tiff-movie-review-the-color-of-the-chameleon/article4530891/
TIFF movie review: The Color of the Chameleon
In the waning years of Communism in Bulgaria, the sad-eyed cipher Batko Stamenoz (Ruscen Vidinliev) is recruited by the secret police to spy on a subversive student group obsessively deconstructing a forbidden novel called Zincograph. When he's summarily dumped by the state spooks, the lifelong nobody finally gets his big chance to become a somebody, as he uses his well-learned wiles in the way of interrogation and counterespionage to create a genuine subversive threat out of entirely bogus fiction. (And possibly hasten the decline of the regime.) A black, absurdist riff on the dank literary labyrinths of Kafka, Le Carré and Don DeLillo, by way of the cinematic influence of David Lynch and Bernardo Bertolucci, Emil Christov's first movie is about how to succeed in politics without really existing.
Toronto Screenshots http://www.torontoscreenshots.com/2012/09/13/color-chameleon/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TorontoScreenShots+%28Toronto+Screen+Shots%29
by James McNally, Sept 13, 2012
Based on the novel Zincograph by noted Bulgarian academic and novelist Vladislav Todorov, this spy thriller pastiche is the sort of go-for-broke film-making that seems increasingly rare in risk-averse Hollywood these days. Jam-packed with literary, cinematic and political jokes and allusions, The Color of the Chameleon will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I found it an exhilarating and wild ride that by the end takes just a few too many twists.
The Color of the Chameleon is at its best when exploring the Kafkaesque environment of the Communist regime and the film gleefully pokes fun at just about everyone. It’s clear that nobody has clean hands when the old system crumbles, and Batko’s self-interested spy seems no worse than anyone else, just smarter. [Batko] is not a communist or even really a capitalist (though he stands to profit from his information). Instead Batko is that oldest of all character types, the trickster.
Joe Bendel http://jbspins.blogspot.com/2012/09/tiff-12-color-of-chameleon.html
Batko Stamenov is like a character in a Samizdat novel come to life, but not necessarily in a good way. The former informer is a figure of existential absurdity rather than defiance. He is still dangerous though, but to whom is the question in Emil Christov’s The Color of the Chameleon, which screens during the2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
Adapted from screenwriter Vladislav Todorov’s real life novel titled Zincograph, Stamenov’s anti-heroics could easily lend themselves to an outrageously over-the-top big screen treatment, but Christov’s approach is rather severe and chilly. [The] third act is an intrigue-fueled dozy, making some razor-sharp points about the state of post-Communist Bulgaria in between the twists and turns.
Looking a lot like a Bulgarian Jude Law, pop star Ruscen Vidinliev’s Stamenov is one cold fish, but he is convincingly calculating and sociopathic. He keeps the film moving along well enough, while the supporting cast provides plenty of color. Rousy Chanev brings the right sort of Machiavellian charisma to bear as Stamenov’s former handler, while Deyan Donkov is notably intense and just plain interesting looking as the Mr. Clean hardball fixer pursuing the freelance saboteur. The politics of Chameleon are rather ambiguous, particularly for viewers not deeply steeped in the Bulgarian scene. Yet, the lingering toxicity of the old regime is unmistakable. Clearly, it spawned a culture of lies and deception that Todorov and Christov argue cannot be easily shrugged off. A slow starter very much worth sticking with, The Color of the Chameleon is recommended for literate, “free-thinking” viewers when it screens again this coming Sunday morning (9/16) as part of this year’s TIFF.
Cinema Scope http://cinema-scope.com/cinema-scope-online/tiff-day-7-augustine-the-bright-day-camion-do-not-disturb-dreams-for-sale-john-dies-at-the-end-a-liars-autobiography-7-boxes/
By Michael Sicinski
Since black-comic post mortems of nefarious doings in the old Soviet Bloc are all the rage, why shouldn’t Bulgaria get into the act? (I suppose we could count 2008’s Zift, but honestly, that was just a meathead flick with communism dolloped on like rancid sour cream.) This flawed but generally sharp debut feature by cinematographer Christov sort of starts out like a bureaucratic riff on the old Adrian Pasdar series Profit. Eventually, the genially amoral film mutates into a rather diverting Burn After Reading-lite for the Warsaw Pact set. In short, Batko is a husk, plucked out of university by a secret police operative to spy on his subversive classmates. Their “Club for New Thinking” is based on a loopy Russian novel that postulates workers’ rebellion and wild sex. Christov’s unique approach, however, comes at the midpoint of the film, when a nosy landlady gets Batko kicked out of the “real” secret police. But why should he let that stop him? The hyper-resourceful and endlessly clandestine former agent simply invents his own micro-agency, “SEX,” with which to elicit confessions and instigate double-crosses from everyone around him. This Dutch-doll, fake-agent-real-agent structure could be a satire regarding post-communist accountability, although Christov seems only nominally interested in the actual political stakes of this material. Rather, it’s a scuzzy riff on spy-vs.-spy gamesmanship. Here we have a film that gleefully erases its protagonist practically as an afterthought because, like him, The Color of the Chameleon gets over with calculated disinvestment.
Montreal Gazette by Liz Ferguson http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/tag/the-color-of-the-chameleon/
FNC 2012: The Color of the Chameleon, a darkly funny, surreal story about Bulgarian secret police
In Communist-era Bulgaria, a student named Batko is recruited by the secret police to spy on his peers. The assignments that he’s given are totally absurd and the reports that he writes are even more so. Naturally, Kafka comes to mind.
Funny as it is, I’m sure I missed many references that might have had Bulgarians, and others more familiar with that country’s history, falling right off their chairs.
Iconic photograph: When Batko gets work at a printing plant, he learns how to etch a plate by reproducing a famous photograph of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and Erich Honecker, the East German leader who built the Berlin Wall, locked tight in an exceedingly comradely clinch.
Film Comment by LAURA KERN http://www.filmcomment.com/entry/festivals-thessaloniki
The Color of the Chameleon, the directorial debut of Bulgarian cinematographer and sometime actor Emil Hristow, was by far the most original. It’s a movie bursting with ideas, which isn’t surprising considering that the screenplay was written by Vladislav Todorov, author of the prodigiously inventive Zift (a highlight of Thessaloniki’s 2008 edition that was shot by Hristow). Adapting his own novel, Zincograph (a much better title in my opinion), Todorov’s scenario begins with the recruitment of a peculiar young man, with an odd family history to match, as a secret-police informant. His task: to infiltrate a group of college students who meet in secret to discuss a subversive novel called, you guessed it, Zincograph. When he is relieved of his duties, he takes matters into his own hands, carrying out the investigation on his own terms. It’s a dizzying film, exhilarating and sometimes overly heady. (My curiosity piqued, I tried to order the Todorov novel immediately after the screening only to learn that it has yet to be translated into English…) A bit shockingly, this darkly comedic film received only a second mention from the jury for the Artistic Achievement Award.
Palm Springs Desert News
Political Satire from Bulgaria Is Very Inventive
By Jack Lyons
When it comes to post Soviet (1989), absurdist, dark political satire with a desire to shake things up – call the Bulgarians. They do the tongue-in-cheek bit with such plausibility and devilish fervor I feel the filmmakers may be in for a little “questioning session” when they return home following the Palm Springs International Film Festival. If this film were an American made movie with this storyline, the creative team would probably be facing a congressional panel of Senators about now. It’s a pity that American politicians have no sense of humor when it comes to telling it like it is, or when their hypocritical sensitive eyes have movie/media and press fingers poked into them.
It’s a wildly inventive and whimsically directed movie by Emil Christov that stars Ruscen Vidinliev in a winning performance in how to succeed in Balkan politics without really existing. His slick, send-up comedy performance is worthy of Alec Guinness in “Kind Hearts and Coronets” or of a Peter Sellars performance in an irony-packed “Dr. Strangelove”, or with a stretch, a Tom Courtenay portrayal as a habitual prevaricator, in “Billy Liar”.
Don’t get mad, get even—or, better yet, get your own secret police. That’s what a frustrated informer does in The Color of the Chameleon, a deadpan Cold War satire from Bulgaria. In Emil Christov’s directorial debut, a peek behind the Iron Curtain turns into a darkly funny trip through the looking glass. The state recruits a young misfit named Batko (codename: Marzipan) to spy on a deviant literary club. When he files an obsessive report that’s intergalactic in scope and earns only his handler’s scorn, he concocts a fake espionage department for his own nebulous investigations and blackmail plots.
Written by Vladislav Todorov (also the brains behind 2008’s Zift), the film is hard to pin down. This is partly because Batko’s aims remain so inscrutable, as he coerces and compromises the intelligentsia of The Club for New Thinking. First glimpsed as a child with a masturbation compulsion, then reintroduced as a pale and scrawny adult, Batko is like a frustrated novelist, exercising his perverse imagination on the real world instead of the page. These grotesque scenarios, at times recalling the films of György Pálfi, are slickly handled by Christov, a veteran DP who shot Zift and who took over The Color of the Chameleon when its original director dropped out.
Does Batko epitomize the kind of creature that flourished in the darkness of totalitarianism, or is he just a nutjob? Most likely he’s a bit of both, as well as a patient, if not visionary prankster: elaborately twisted punchlines pay off when the action continues past the fall of Communism. Bulgarian cinema has, for many years, been close to nonexistent, but Christov and Todorov’s fervid fictions might just start to fill the void.
Filmmaker Magazine by Howard Feinstein http://filmmakermagazine.com/67087-top-riders-new-directorsnew-films/
In Bulgaria, young, handsome Batko (pop singer Ruscen Videnliev) adapts to the fall of Communism and its replacement with ”democracy” by morphing from straight-laced geek into slick opportunist. He alters not only his appearance but his overall persona, always coming out ahead. This highly original film begins during Batko’s adolescence. His aunt complains to a government official about the boy’s compulsive masturbation. The intentionally overplayed scene is a prelude to a recurring comic connection between sex and state; onanism is a leitmotif. The absurdity of that scene sets the tone for this successfully satirical movie. A few years later, near the tail-end of the Communist era, Batko is recruited by state security to infiltrate an organization of intellectuals. They belong to the Club for New Thinking, the members of which intensely study a book called Zincograph (also the title of the novel adapted for the screen by author Vladislav Todorov), which includes a character who creates a fictional network of subversives who run circles around the secret police. He gets fired. In the course of wonderfully ludicrous events, he transforms himself from blindly obedient slave to the spying apparatus into fast-talking trickster operating his own espionage set-up, one in which Groucho Marx and Peter Sellers would feel at home. The crisp, sometimes fanciful cinematography and terrific, poker-faced acting (not LOL) keep the film from straying too far from any recognizable reality. It is chock full of visual gags, lighthearted references to cinema, and engaging, over-the-top supporting characters. Irreverent across the board, it pokes fun at both apparatchiks and free-thinking radicals.
Examiner by John DeWitte https://www.examiner.com/article/the-2013-european-union-film-festival-part-4
Emil Christov’s The Color Of The Chameleon (Tsvetat Na Hameleona) (Bulgaria, 2012) is a blackly absurdist comedic thriller that becomes less absurd the further the eccentricities progress. Batko (Ruscen Vidinliev, resembling a long-lost brother of Jake Gyllenhaal and Joaquin Phoenix) is a somewhat aimless savant, an orphan, who is recruited out of school by the Bulgarian secret police to sniff out conspiracies using his limitless creative imagination and his propensity for lying at will. When his inventions spin out and back from left field, his amused but impatient supervisor continues to employ him, but when a circumstance in his homelife breaches the bureau’s paranoid protocol, he’s dismissed. But by now Batko appreciates the fervent mix of real investigative homework coupled with the convincing lie and the artful masquerade, and, taking up where he was ordered to leave off, fabricates his own investigation of a local political arts group. Spurred on by Batko’s ‘interest’ in their activities, each member of the group succeeds beyond even their own personal expectations. Eventually, he’s given the opportunity to spin his poison-pill network of officious circular-shooting-gallery opportunists against the intelligence network that rejected him, all with the ultimate goal of sailing off into a romantic sunset with his own film-buff paramour (Irena Miliankova). It’s a very stylish and clever mélange of cold-war espionage filtered through a character not too far removed from Being There’s Chauncey Gardner. Casablanca is a frequent reference within the film as well, but it’s a riff that enhances what Christov has already fashioned, rather than just an atmospheric short-cut. The first portions of Christov’s narrative may seem a little patchwork-y and confusing, but Vladislav Todorov, adapting his own 2010 novel Zincograph, brings it all home admirably. And more than a few of you will be debating that unexpected ending on the way out of the theater. Highly recommended.
A.O. Scott of NY Times
In this stylized, lurid, archly literary pastiche of espionage thriller and coming-of-age story, the Bulgarian director Emil Christov imagines the end of Communism as the dramatic replacement of one reality with another. Or maybe the collapse of one form of absurdity and the triumph of another. Either way, a handsome, intense young man named Batko (Ruscen Vidinliev) finds himself embroiled in interlocking conspiracies, and the viewer bounces dizzily from satire to suspense to political allegory. Recruited by the secret police to spy on a group of ridiculous intellectuals, Batko turns his existence into an elaborate series of plots and counterplots. In the process he reveals himself to be either the most cynical person in Bulgaria or the only one who could be described as sincere. As a storyteller and a maker of images, Mr. Christov demonstrates a remarkable, exuberant sense of strangeness. And also a very specific appreciation for the early work of John Updike. (A. O. S.)
Film-Forward by Kent Turner http://film-forward.com/film-festival/new-directorsnew-films-2013
The Color of the Chameleon is the first Bulgarian selection by ND/NF in 35 years, so it’s understandable if you may not be familiar with the details of Bulgaria’s awkward transition from totalitarianism since 1990, but you will still laugh at debut director Emil Christov’s absurdist satire. Bulgaria was evidently riddled with informers, so it’s not even that far-fetched that young Batko Stamenov (Ruscen Vidinliev) gets recruited to infiltrate an anarchist book club and pretty much goes crazy with secret spy power as his world turns topsy turvy. The movie inspirations just start at Casablanca (remember the Bulgarians who Rick helps at roulette?), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Matrix, so the inevitably missed political allusions won’t matter. Christov’s long career as a distinctive cinematographer lends a striking look to this adaptation by Vladislav Todorov of his 2010 novel Zincograph (not yet available in English) that is as cynically funny as Catch-22.
Slant by Chris Cabin http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/the-color-of-the-chameleon/6884
All the while, Christov employs a devilishly seductive aesthetic ... to embellish a rote sense of grotesque cynicism in reaction to governmental corruption and idiocy.
Unseen Films by Steve Kopian http://unseenfilms.blogspot.com/2013/03/color-of-chamelon-2012-new-directors.html
If you want a film that will challenge you, frustrate, amuse and engage you see this film. I doubt you’ll see another film like it this or any other year.
Variety by Ronnie Scheib http://variety.com/2013/film/reviews/film-review-the-color-of-the-chameleon-1200334749/
A darkly comic evocation of communist absurdities circa 1989, “The Color of the Chameleon” follows the fortunes of an amoral, almost Tom Ripley-esque opportunist and his initially state-decreed, later self-mandated adventures in surveillance. Based on scriptwriter Vladislav Todorov’s novel “Zincograph,” referenced within the film as a key underground text, this debut feature from Bulgarian helmer Emil Christov creates an alternate reality that juxtaposes Kafkaesque bureaucratic illogic with the murderous whimsy of an off-the-wall freelancer. Composed as a series of surreal shocks, this New Directors/New Films entry, rapidly changing tones alongside its fearlessly imitative hero, reps a dark horse for arthouse distribution.
l’étoile by Niles Schwartz http://www.letoilemagazine.com/2013/04/23/the-niles-files-mspiff-the-color-of-the-chameleon/
The Color of the Chameleon, one of the most bizarre, richest, dazzling, and convoluted (in a good way!) films I’ve seen in the last year, is like a Bulgarian gonzo version of The Lives of Others, where Secret Policing in Cold War Communism is redecorated as a Freudian playground and espionage becomes frolicking onanism, the modern history of a single nation hilariously reduced to the over-active and isolated imagination of a maladjusted young man.
The Hollywood Reporter by Stephen Dalton
This darkly satirical Eastern Bloc espionage comedy skewers state corruption under Communism and afterwards.
An absurdist comedy spy thriller with Kafka-esque overtones, this handsome Bulgarian production marks the feature debut of veteran cinematographer and music video director Emil Christov. The action mostly takes place in 1989, just before the fall of communism across Eastern Europe, though the film’s rich 35 mm look and heavily sardonic tone recalls an earlier golden age of political satires made in former Soviet satellite states like Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, with their pungent mix of sex, surrealism and social commentary. Screened at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival last week, this engaging comic fable has more festival mileage ahead, with potential word-of-mouth curiosity value for venturesome foreign distributors.
The antihero is Batko Stamenov (Ruscen Vidinliev), a charming and talented sociopath in the Tom Ripley mold. Shortly before Bulgaria’s communist regime falls apart, clean-cut student Stamenov is recruited by shifty secret police captain Mliakov (Rousy Chanev) to infiltrate an allegedly subversive cultural group at his university. Suspicions have been aroused by the group’s interest in the banned novel Zincograph: a postmodern joke, since this is the title of the Vladislav Todorov novel that inspired this film. Todorov also wrote the screenplay and served as co-producer.
In between playing sadistic mind games with his tragicomically grotesque landlady, the cheerfully amoral Stamenev comes to relish passing on colorful, wildly embroidered reports to his secret police handlers. But when Mliakov fires him over a petty mistake, the vengeful trainee spy continues with his infiltration mission on a freelance basis, posing as an undercover officer for a new branch of the security services focused on sexuality and “the creative management of orgasm.” Jumping forward to postcommunist Bulgaria, Stamenev’s former dissident informants are now in positions of power, but their past confessions and sleazy misdeeds come back to haunt them in an explosive blackmail scandal. New political system, same old rotten apples.
The Color of the Chameleon is peppered with knowing homages to classic espionage novels and movies, including a recurring Casablanca motif which highlights that film’s obscure Bulgarian subplot. It is also full of bumpy narrative swerves and odd tonal shifts that Christov does not appear to have fully under control. At almost two hours, it feels overlong, while many of its cultural references will obviously make more sense in Sofia than in San Francisco. All the same, the artful camera work by Krum Rodriguez is a constant pleasure, and there is enough ripe material in this ambitiously bizarre satire to reward curious outsiders for their patience.
Indiewire by Carlos Aguilar http://blogs.indiewire.com/sydneylevine/review-the-color-of-the-chameleon-bulgaria-emil-hristov-foreign-language-oscar-submissions-academy-awards-2014-international-film-business
...one of the most original European films in recent memory.
Links to Reviews
MARKETS OF FILM PROJECTS
Official Selection WORKS IN PROGRESS THESSALONIKI IFF '11
Official Selection Cannes Atelier '10
Bulgarian national financial aid granted, 2009
Official Selection New Cinema Network - Focus Europe, Rome IFF '09
Official Selection Connecting Cottbus, Cottbus IFF '09
Won Restart Award CineLink Coproduction Market, Sarajevo IFF '09
Won Balkan Fund Script Development Award, Thessaloniki IFF '08