Monday, April 30, 2007

The Marathon Family

I love Slobodan Sijan’s movies and I saw almost all of them. Maratonci Trce Pocasni Krug or The Marathon Family is considered to be a cult movie in Serbia. It contains humor specific for this country and therefore a good translation (subtitle) for this movie is simply a must. Some of the jokes are untranslatable. Some of them have deeper meaning only for the people in Serbia. However, it is possible to watch this movie and to grasp a bit of a different mentality. Sijan’s movies are generally very refreshing and interesting.

The Marathon Family is based on Dusan Kovacevic’s theater play. Set in the little town in inner part of Serbia, this is the story about Topalovic family that is into funeral business for generations. Their company name is Last Lodging and they are making coffins because, as Laki Topalovic said, everything can fail and disappear, only death is a steady job.

This is not an ordinary family. Oh no! Topalovic women “fade away like flowers” after giving birth to a boy so basically there is no female member in the family. What we see are six generations of men and the oldest member is 120 years old Pantelija.

The movie is centered around the youngest family member Mirko. As the representative of the new generation, Mirko had enough of the coffin business. He is in love with mafia boss daughter Kristina while she is after cinema owner and movie maker Djenka.

Most of the actors are well known and highly respected in Serbia, often playing in comedies but they are also brilliant stage actors. I had luck to get to know Zoran Radmilovic who played the mafia boss in this movie. As actor, he was well known and famous for his improvisations in several theater plays. He died in 1985. I will always remember his cheerful nature.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

De Jurk

I read somewhere that we can lie in the language of dress or try to tell the truth but unless we are naked and bald, it is impossible to be silent.

I simply don’t know how to begin my story about the movie De Jurk (The Dress). I’m overwhelmed by many emotions. Blue dress with leaves… My God, this is the story I never expected!

De Jurk is a tale about the journey of one interesting dress, from the day it was envisioned and created, through the lives of many owners and until the end, when the dress has finally fulfilled its strange purpose.

There are actually several tales but they are developing from each other and some characters keep reappearing. The stories are weird and funny but also quite disturbing and obscene. There is a lot of violence, unexpected situations, comedy and drama. You just don’t know if you should laugh and where all of that is going to end!

Is this the story about the people or about the dress? I guess both. We are attracted by certain objects. We all have our favorite pair of shoes for example. Some people believe that certain shirts or pair of socks can bring them luck and so on. Well why not? But it seems like this dress keeps bringing bad luck to its owners. I swear the dress in question is cursed! LOL

Some people said: Yes, the movie is interesting but what’s the message? Indeed, it might look like there is none. However, for myself, behind all crazy happenings, there is a quest for love and there is the message. Absolutely all characters in this movie desperately search for love in one way or another. We all define love differently, just like the dream of one person can be a nightmare for another person. Same is with happiness. Sometimes we need so little, just one kiss or hug. Sometimes our search became obsession.

The entire cast of De Jurk was excellent and all characters are well developed and equally interesting. The story is simply great and director Alex van Warmerdam has done an excellent job. As usual, he played in his movie and this time he is a train conductor. Don’t miss it!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Umberto D.

I’m sure many things have already been said about the movie Umberto D. It is indeed one of the finest movies ever made. I used to work for the Red Cross helping old people in my area and this movie brought many memories to my mind.

Director Vittorio De Sica dedicated this movie to his father. The main character is Umberto Domenico Ferrari. He is old and a poor pensioner who has no one but his dog Flike.

The story is actually very simple – Umberto is struggling to pay the rent to his landlady and she just doesn’t have any understanding for his situation. The only friendly character is the young maid Maria and although she cares about the old man she can’t do much to help him. They both are down on their luck.

Carlo Battisti plays Umberto and I must say that he has done an absolutely fantastic job. I was amazed to find out that this was actually the only movie he ever played in. I don’t think it’s possible to watch this movie without tears in your eyes. Mister Battisti has managed to break my heart with his astonishing performance.

Although very emotional and dramatic, this movie is never sappy or mawkish. All characters are very well developed and we can make clear conclusions even from the shortest appearances.

This is definitely a character-driven movie. It will make you think about ageing but regardless the years, we can be down on our luck any time. Sometimes it takes only one dog to help us further in our struggles through life.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Andrey Rublyov

Since I spoke about the movie Perfume: The Story of the Murderer in my last post, I decided to go over some movies that I saw in the past (and indeed I saw so many), which naturally lead me to one of my favorite directors – Andrei Tarkovsky and his movie Andrey Rublyov.

We know so little about Rublyov and there are very few historical documents, all very brief. What is known is that he lived in 15th-century Russia and that he is considered to be the greatest Russian iconographer. I think I can start already from here by telling that the movie Andrey Rublyov is (among other things) the story about artist and his position in the world, pictured through the regime of the middle-age Russia in this particular case but mind you, the story has universal character.

You can be very famous (Rublyov surely is!) but yet history might not know anything about you. An artist is often (so to say) a product of his/her time because no one is isolated from the historical events in one way or another. This movie (to quote Tarkovsky) will tell you of the impossibility of creating art outside of the nation's aspirations, of the artist's attempts to express its soul and character, and of the way that an artist's character depends upon his historical situation. As an artist, I was deeply moved by this movie. There is also some hardness that lasts long after the movie ended…

Although the movie is named by Andrey Rublyov, he appears to be just one of the characters, often passive as he is merely observing the situation but deeply affected by the events.

All main characters are different and interesting. All of them have their own tales, personal philosophy and approach to art and events. For example, Theophanes the Greek is already an established iconographer, old enough to live without illusions. For him, art is but a craft. I liked some of his lines very much, like when he said:

Yes, I'm going to die. The other day, I saw an angel in my dream. "Come with me," he says. And I answer: "I'm going to die soon anyway, without your help."

Or when he said (referring to people):

Today they praise, tomorrow they'll abuse what they praised only yesterday, and after that they'll forget both you and me. They'll forget everything!

The script is written by Andrei Konchalovsky and Tarkovsky. The particular historical background is not bright but has history ever been?! Religion and the regime are in the center of the story but there is much more than that.

The entire movie is black and white except the very end, where we can see the actual Rublyov’s iconography and that almost gives a sense of the miracle.

The movie won three awards. Not enough I would say ;). Tarkovsky’s cinematography is simply beautiful! I think this is a must see movie.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Not so long ago I saw Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. People often complain that books are better than movies and I must confess, I often agree with that statement but in this particular case I was truly pleasantly surprised. Mind you, the task was not easy and many said that filming S├╝skind’s novel was actually an impossible task but I think director Tom Tykwer has done a good job. I have taken some screenshots for those interested to take a peek.

Everything was exactly or very close to what I imagined while reading the book, except for the end. I personally think that the very end of the movie could have been executed much better and the main character (Grenouille) is not enough developed. He is far from the book in the matter of appearance. Anyway, for those that are not familiar with the story, I will try to give a brief synopsis. Set in 18th-century France, the entire story follows the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, from the day he was born to the very end. Grenouille had one very interesting talent and that was a superior olfactory sense. He was creating the world’s finest perfumes but that didn’t mean much to him because he was searching for the one particular, ultimate scent, which will eventually lead him to crime. I won’t say anything else. Go, see the movie!

Ben Whishaw plays Grenouille. I must admit, I never saw him before but he was pretty good in this role.

I didn’t have a clue about the cast so seeing Dustin Hoffman as perfumer Baldini and Alan Rickman as loving father was totally surprising and a pleasant experience.

The movie is less brutal than the novel. Picturing scents (which was important considering the story) is executed well. Surely you can’t smell, unless your local cinema came up with some ideas, but there are images, music, atmosphere and all works truly well. Also, the cinematography and costumes are excellent. I think you won’t be disappointed.

The official website Perfume: The Story of a Murderer