In the country of Georgia in Eastern Europe, Tbilisi’s urban decayed streets are brought to pulsing life in director Levan Koguashvili’s blow-away debut. Every male from their mid-50s to teenagers scramble to score heroin. Buildings in the ghetto, even a government minister’s, are beat up and falling apart. Post-Communism’s underbelly is grimy with scabbed wounds exposed.
Checkie is a junkie miserably trying to maintain a normal life with some semblance of morality. He spends his days hanging out with fellow junkies and even picks up his daughter from grade school. The school’s principle, like almost all women, is hysterical at their crumbling environment and sleazy humanity. A teen, son of the aforementioned minister, approaches Checkie hoping to score junk so he can look cool to his buddies. He’s never gotten high. The cops get wind of this—they’re the most corrupt scumbags of all— and push Checkie to supply the son and get him high, ripe to be busted. Then the cops will blackmail the minister to keep things quiet, avoiding a scandal.
Koguashvili directs his actors with the twitching naturalism of Robert Altman. They bounce off each other frenetically as if their skin itches and they need to punch each other. Their alternative is giggling insanity. In a classroom scene, the minister’s son pulls a gun and points it at the teacher’s back. He shoves it from view when she turns around and then out again when she looks away. No one freaks out. Camera movements and framing have an intuitive pull and flow while possessing compositional skill of an innately gifted photographer. Drop Koguashvili anywhere in the world and he’ll probably shoot an elegantly composed frame.
Tbilisi has the trashed wreckage look and manic belligerent energy of New York City in the 1970s. The interaction is often so frantic that it seems like everyone wants to slash each other’s throats. But the direction is so superb and energetic that I could not be depressed. I can’t help but compare Street Days to Scorsese’s Mean Streets. I hope Koguashvili’s career flares as bright. The talent is present. Film lovers everywhere should watch Street Days.