It's good when a filmmaker makes a film along with like-minded people. In Levan Koguashvili’s case, like-minded to him, first of all, is Boris Frumin – director, screenwriter, producer, teacher, who taught him film directing in his master's degree at the Tisch School of Art of New York University. Frumin is the co-author of Koguashvili's film scripts: "Street Days" (2010), "Blind Dates" (2013) and the screenwriter of the film, "Brighton 4th" (2021). Koguashvili has another like-minded person, Kote Japaridze, who is the production designer of all three above-mentioned films. Elene Asatiani often works on the editing of the director's films. Thus, "Brighton 4th" is basically a film made by like-minded people, and this unity is obvious in the film. All aspects of the film are in harmony with each other: script, visuals, sound...
Yes, along with this unity, this film is similar to Levan Koguashvili's other films: visual solution (color, tonality, texture), shooting style, narrative pace, consistent dramaturgy development, attention to details (the author is a former journalist and sometimes, as a journalist, researches the material, which gives his feature films a certain documentary quality) ... but who can say that this is a drawback? Isn't that how we recognize the films of genius directors with just a few shots? It is one narrative, the narrative of the author (and his team), what he has to say and his attitude towards the world. Each new film shows, continues, completes, explores it from a new angle. Such are Levan Koguashvili’s works. No matter where the events unfold: in Tbilisi, in the province of Georgia, in America, the center of attention is everywhere a person who makes a certain choice in a critical situation in order to achieve a goal, and he is not indifferent to what that choice will be.
"Brighton 4th" is the story of an elderly man who travels from Tbilisi to New York with his son. This is not Tbilisi, the land of the sun and roses, to be shown to the guest, just as the New York of this film is not Hollywood America, a lit up metropolis, with avenues known to the audience from other films. Moreover, I think that what is seen on the screen is not America at all. This is a small part of what is left of the Soviet Union thrown across the ocean.
The children of the Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists, know each other well, and the style of their relations has been established. These people understand each other better than the natives, and probably, if they stay in America for a long time, they may find it difficult to understand their compatriots living in their native countries. These people are well known by the authors of the film, whose lives more or less passed in Georgia, America, the Soviet Union and post-Soviet countries. it feels that almost every character has a real prototype. Actors, if not themselves, bring familiar people and situations to life.
The action of the film begins in Tbilisi. Here they watch European football and place bets, experience it, some express their emotions, some do not. The image is gray, brownish, khaki, sometimes mixed with warm beige. Mostly, the colors are muted (Giorgi Shvelidze is the cameraman of the scenes shot in Tbilisi). From here, from dilapidated, plastered, vandalized buildings, they look at paradise - abroad. In this situation, some people selflessly try to do something, for example, train and establish themselves, while others play with fate and try to get rich by gambling. It's probably the 1990s.
The character of the image does not change when the action moves from Tbilisi to New York. Similar colors, mood (cameraman Phedon Papamichael). The camera tries to tell the story through visual narration rather than text. This is facilitated by: the film set artist, costume designers (Eka Bichinashvili and Tinatin Kvinikadze) and film editing. Sometimes the audience observes the characters in the narrow, winding corridors of the hostel, in the dungeon-like rooms, sometimes - against the background of the wide ocean beach.
Soso (Giorgi Tabidze), a young doctor who came to settle in America, works as a porter. He is also involved in gambling like his uncle in Tbilisi, because he thinks that he cannot get ahead with his salary. Soso wants to pass medical exams, but that requires American citizenship. One way is to register marriage with an American citizen, although it costs 15 thousand dollars to wed. Lena (Nadezhda Mikhalkova), who settled in America from Leningrad, agrees to marry him, whom Soso also likes. Soso seemed to have collected the necessary amount, but at the last moment he lost at cards and incurred a huge debt. In this situation, his father - Kakhi, a former world champion in wrestling, comes to him, trying to help his son. The role of Kakhi is played by the truly legendary sportsman Levan Tediashvili. This man is history. Everything is written on his face: all the battles on the wrestling mat and in life, and all the victories and defeats. Every felt pain and joy is reflected in his eyes and facial wrinkles and furrows. His silence is also expressive and every word spoken with a non-acting voice and diction (in 2021, Levan Tediashvili received an award for outstanding individuality at the Cottbus International Film Festival in Germany).
This hero doesn't talk much, he observes everyone and everything more, he doesn't judge anyone, he doesn't accuse, he doesn't ask for an answer, including his own brother or son. When he doesn't like something, he takes responsibility and starts taking action. He decided to start working and take care of the elderly, then to quit, to send home a man who was forcibly brought to the hostel, to fight an opponent much younger than him... Kakhi is clearly the main hero, a positive hero, and this is his story. But who is his opponent, the negative hero? Levan Koguashvili does not divide his characters into good and bad. According to the laws of classical dramaturgy, the antagonist is the one who stands in the way of the hero in achieving his goal, the one who the main character will meet at the end of the film and find out who won and who lost. According to this logic, the antagonist is Amir (Yuri Zur). He is also a representative of ex-Soviet immigrants living in Brooklyn, a small "boss" who earned more money than others. Probably, in the ways that he was used to in Russia and on his "territory" gambling is conducted. It is to him that Soso must pay the debt, already 18 thousand dollars. Amir can switch on or off the so-called counter. He can immediately demand the return of the debt or its reimbursement for something, for example, in a fight with Kakhi, because he himself is a former wrestler and knows well Kakhi’s price, who is twice his senior. Why is Amir worse than the Georgian residents of the hostel, who tricked a man into paying back a debt and imprisoned him? Or why is Farik better, who employs women as cleaners for 4 months in his hotel and do not pay? Both in this country as well as in that one they act according to the same rules, the old, street rules, which they brought with them to America. These people don't even know English properly, but they understand each other well. One more thing unites them - Russians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Georgians... they are all like rooted trees, the homesickness of their homeland eats them from the inside, which can be felt even in the details. A good scene is the party in the hostel, where Farik (Tolepbergen Baisakalov) rocks to Georgian tunes with movements characteristic of Kazakh dance. I found his singing with the correct text of "Suliko" relatively over-emphasized. I would have preferred that he knew the theme of the song and only approximated the lyrics, although I am sure that this scene is based on a true story.
As the main character, Kakhi does not judge anyone. Also, the authors of the film do not judge their characters. Each of them, together with the unworthy, is able to do and does worthy deeds.
Tragic passages are correctly shown in the film, which the author presents to us without sentimentality, but makes us feel such sadness that drains our soul and heart. Everything is accompanied by light irony and humor, and each one becomes even more heartbreaking.
The film is dedicated to Kakhi Kavsadze’s memory. His character Sergo is important in the film. The old man seems to be protecting himself from reality, from longing by singing... He is likely to die in a foreign land and he will be mourned on the Internet, like Levan Tediashvili’s hero and the last long song that Sergo sings to the deceased expresses everyone's pain, disappointment, joy and faith in the future together.
Levan Koguashvili shows what he knows, what happened in front of his eyes and in him in reality or at the level of feeling. That is why the themes of emigration, lost generation, addiction to gambling are important for him. Nevertheless, in "Brighton 4th" these topics are not the main ones. This film is about fatherhood, their close relationship. "I wrestled all my life and wouldn't I wrestle for you"? - Kakhi tells his son before his death, who now faces an even greater misunderstanding. The father did what he could - he paid his debts at the cost of his own life and voluntarily fulfilled his wife's will - he returns his son to his homeland.
The vocal range of the "Brighton 4th" is worth mentioning separately. Natural noise is organically attached to it and does not interfere with perception. Even more important is the music that accompanies the film. The songs and melodies chosen with taste and precision by the director wonderfully explain and reveal the character of the scene and appear as a separate character. Sometimes its abrupt interruption is a good technique, and it brings out the feeling of incompleteness and dissatisfaction that the characters of the film carry.
Levan Koguashvili said in an interview that he belongs to those directors for whom the audience is important. Yes, I try to make an author's film, but this does not mean that I do not think about the audience. On the contrary, I think that there is a golden limit to protect. He really thinks about the audience, what they will see, hear, feel and understand in his films, in his world.