Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cowboys (oirg. Kauboji) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing
CSFD listing* (D. Raknić) review*
NemilosrdniGadovi (V. Runjić) review*
Variety (E. Taylor) review

Cowboys (oirg. Kauboji) [2014] [IMDb] [CEu] [CSFD] (screenplay and directed by Tomislav Mršić [IMDb] [CSFD]* [CEu] based on the stage play by Saša Anočić [IMDb] [CSFD]* [CEu]) is a CROATIAN comedy that played recently at the 2015 - 18th Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

And though the film was Croatia's official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film award for the 2014 Oscars, I can honestly say that I didn't know what to do with the film for the first 45 minutes or so.  I write this because I write this blog, and READERS WILL CERTAINLY NOTE that I spend a probably disproportionate amount of time reviewing FOREIGN FILMS, in good part to try to do _my part_ in trying to bring people together, to help them learn about each other, and learn to appreciate each other.

What then to do with A FILM THAT SEEMS TO GLORY in some of the most dismissive stereotypes of "ethnics" (in the States, read SLAVS... and I'm one of them, Czech ...)?

Add then that I HAD JUST SEEN a top-notch, in truly _every sense of the word_, AUSTRIAN (READ GERMAN ...) "Western" called The Dark Valley (orig. Das Finstere Tal) [2014] that was set very interestingly in the late 1800s up in the Austrian Alps (and yet followed pretty much ALL the conventions of a typical American Western, the dress, the soundtrack, "the stranger riding into town ...") ...

.... AND RIGHT AFTER THAT, I see this CROATIAN (SLAVIC ...) film about an, okay, top-notch Croatian director coming back to a midsized Croatian industrial town where he had grown-up to fulfill a promise he had made to his father long ago, to put on a play (which ALSO turns out to be a Western) in this his home town.  But the cast he has to work with is, at least at first glance, and perhaps at second, third, fourth and fifth glances ... are a bunch of idiots ;-).  IT'S HONESTLY A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD ;-)

And yet, as the story goes on, THAT BECOMES THE POINT ... These poor "walk-ons" (obviously, actually professional actors PLAYING "walk-ons") maybe a director's nightmare BUT ... they are PEOPLE with their own stories.  And as their stories play-out even as they "prepare" to put-on the first stage play to be played at the town's (still probably Communist Era) "Palace of Culture" in some 20 years, Viewers come to "understand."

So this is a film that's part Chorus Line [1985], a good part like the American sitcom Taxi [1978-1983] and (thank you Ella Taylor of Variety!) a good part The Full Monty [1997] (also about life in a "dying industrial town," where nothing much seems to happen any more).

But the links to Taxi [1978-1983] are perhaps the most hilarious:

One of the characters in the film, the shadiest (but they all have good hearts) -- who under pressure "admits" that he's "half Gypsy / half Serb" (this of course IN CROATIA ... ;-) -- even looked like Danny De Vito ;-)

THEN ANOTHER CHARACTER, a SWEET but initially UTTERLY "OUT THERE" 20-year old girl READS A POEM for her audition that she and her mute brother ("accompanying her on piano" ;-) wrote IN AN INVENTED LANGUAGE that, of course, NOBODY -- except PERHAPS Andy Kaufman's "Lavka" ... who'd then of course ... "begin to cry" -- COULD UNDERSTAND ;-).

Seriously, THAT POEM was BEAUTIFUL.  One could identify RHYME, one could identify METER, one could even identify ALLITERATION ... BUT ... NO ONE COULD UNDERSTAND A <@#$!> WORD OF IT ;-) ;-)

And there it is...

Perhaps the revelatory scene in the film comes when one of the five (with the poetic girl and her mute brother, seven) hapless "walk-on actors" comes to admit that he's "probably gay" (even though he protests: "I have a wife and a kid ... Okay (head drops) I had a wife and a kid ... they left me.") saying finally: "Okay, okay, I MAY BE GAY, BUT ... I'm NOT a F...."

Every single person in this story was EXACTLY THAT.  They all had terrible, painful, even in a sense LOL-FUNNY flaws.  BUT NONE OF THEM WERE ... <fill in whatever derogatory slur would seem "appropriate">.  That is, they were all PEOPLE ...

... AND IN THE END ... they put on a GOOD SHOW that the people of their town, who hadn't seen a show in their town in 20 years were VERY, VERY APPRECIATIVE OF.

Honestly, a great Story!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser.

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