Kusturica, Black Cat / White Cat

R.J.G.Alves R.J.G.Alves at SPAMdurham.ac.uk
Mon Nov 1 05:30:02 MST 1999

"Daddy's gone in a business trip" was the first film by
Kusturica I saw, and could well be just another one of
the "socialist realism" films which were done by the
hungarian Marta Meszaros and others in the seventies
and eighties. It is a slightly elliptical critique of
Titoism ,and its most bizarre note was the departure
from realism in the last scene, where one of the characters
(a sleepwalking child) starts flying over the mountains.
 "Arizona Dreams" was, as far as I know, the result of
Hollywood trying to bring in Kusturica. Faye Dunaway and
John Depp are the two actors who had the honor of being
directed in this directionless film. Most of the time,
you are left with the impression that there is nothing
but improvisation. Thunderstorms, acordion-playing,
some russian-roulette and imitations of Hitchcock's "North
by Northwest" fill the two hours. Some of the characters
devote part of their time to build impossible flying machines.
 "Underground" is Kusturica at its best, and the more
directally political of his films. It starts with a group
of serbian communists finishing one of their meetings in
a brothel. It is the night Nazi Germany starts bombing Belgrade,
but when the bombs begin to fall one of the characters shouts
"I don't care about your bloody war, I just want to f***!".
This film is mostly remembered for a small serbian community
which is kept in an underground by an opportunistic party
member who convinces them that the war isn't over yet. It
was regarded as a metaphor of Tito's Yugoslavia, and the
most heroic character in the film is indeed an old, picaresque
Partisan who fights the Bosnian conflict as if it still was the
war against nazi-fascism. Overall, it is a very bitter comment on
the end of Yugoslavia, and the fact that it was released
during the Sarajevo siege did not make him very popular
in his native city.
 Most of all, Emir Kusturica seems to be a nostalgic of
Yugoslavia. He now holds a french passport, and when
journalists ask him if his first name means that he is
a (Bosnian) "Muslim", he leaves the question unanswered.
I regret not having seen "Black cat/White cat", where
apparently he continues to celebrate surrealism and
the lifestyle of the Gypsies, those eternal victims of
all Balkan's wars.

 Ricardo J.G. Alves

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