In the ’70s, Armenian-American filmmaker Sarky Maroudian made three melodramas starring singer/actor Manuel Manankichian—and while the following remarks pertain to Tears of Happiness, which appears to be the first and most widely seen of their collaborations, one imagines that Promise of Love (1974) and Sons of Sassoun (1975), neither of which were available for review, are roughly equivalent. Tears of Happiness, which is mostly in Armenian but has a few scenes in English, is a somewhat primitive piece of work, competent but marred by iffy performances and a weak storyline. Yet bitching about anemic plotting probably misses the point, because it’s not as if anyone ever bought tickets for an Elvis picture expecting profound insights into the human condition. Like myriad other musicals designed to showcase singers, Tears of Happiness is a one-dimensional showbiz saga that follows a predictable path to a crowd-pleasing payoff, with many tuneful detours along the way.
When the picture starts, Raffi (Manankichian) is a boorish, willful singer-songwriter who treats his young wife, Silvia (Sosi Kodjian), terribly, even striking her one night when she fails to keep their infant child quiet while he’s trying to compose a song. Silva leaves Raffi, prompting him to do some soul-searching. What happens thereafter is strictly formulaic: Without Silva’s love to ground him, Raffi finds fame but loses his integrity until realizing he’s been a fool and winning Silva back.
An unkind review would note that Tears of Happiness often lapses into self-parody. Director Maroudian’s idea of a deep scene is to have someone cry or mope near water—a fountain, an ocean, a river—in vignettes that usually comprise only two shots, one of the actor and one of the water. This device feels particularly enervated during musical passages that drag on for several minutes. The acting is as crude and obvious as the filmmaking, so the big reunion scene (not-really-a-spoiler alert!) consists of Raffi wandering through woods and shouting Silva’s name until they somehow find each other in the wilderness. Still, Maroudian and his collaborators showed enterprise by creating specialty content for an underserved demographic, and some fans undoubtedly savor this document of Manankichian in his prime.
Tears of Happiness: FUNKY