In Love Translated, Vancouver based director Julia Ivanova takes us temporarily to Richmond, B.C. That’s home for a man who faces pressure from his family to get a wife. The world is 50% women, but apparently North American women aren’t good enough for him. So through the Anastasia dating service or whatever, he joins other Western men to go to Odessa, Ukraine to find a wife.
Ivanova’s documentary takes us to Anastasia’s idea of courting. It’s a ten day trial period where the men meet these women. For 80 minutes she gets to hilariously mock the male gaze, looking at the women and their interpreters. She catches their bored facial expressions, which the men either don’t see or ignore.
The men and the women eventually choose who they want to spend that week and a half with. Ivanova uses these slow pans and tracking shots, switching from the man to his object of what he calls love. Even through 2010 camera technology she captures a sense of artificiality. These women don’t seem like real people and the men prefer them that way.
The demographics of the people Ivanova follows are half and half. Sometimes we see the men comparing notes, which show the limits of these men’s idiocy. They know that these women have an endgame and they make their own. This feels like a proxy cold war but with its belligerents deluding themselves.
But the movie lights up when it shows Odessa and its people. The juxtaposition of new money and old money are present here, interestingly enough. The young women carry tacky handbags while walking next to buildings that Catherine the Great built. The film eventually points out how the economy of wife hunting affects Odessa. This doc is insightful, slightly mean, and I kind of like it that way.