Saturday, March 5, 2016

Love Island (orig. Otok Ljubavi) [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4+ w. explanation)

IMDb listing listing listing* (M. Del Don) review () review* (N. Selimović) review* (N. Polimac) review* () review* (J. Peršić) review*

The Hollywood Reporter (S. Dalton) review
Variety (J. Weissberg) review

Love Island (orig. Otok Ljubavi) [2014] [IMDb] [CEu] []*(directed and cowritten by Jasmila Žbanić  [IMDb] [CEu] []* along with Aleksandar Hemon [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb] [CEu] []*) is a truly fun (though appropriately R-rated) Woody Allen-esque BOSNIAN / CROATIAN (still relatively discrete though much is implied) "SEX" COMEDY (co-produced also with GERMAN and SWISS funding) that played recently at the 19th (2016) Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago. 

Sarajevo couple Grebo (played by Ermin Bravo [IMDb] []*) and Liliane (played by Ariane Labed [IMDb]) French are on vacation at a resort on the Adriatic Sea in Northern Croatia...

Now during the Cold War, Croatia's Adriatic Coast was enormously popular for vacationers from throughout Eastern Europe.  My own Czech relatives had fond memories of going there.  Croatia, then part of (Communist) Yugoslavia, had back then the advantages of being (1) a place that East Europeans were generally allowed to go, (2) being quite cheap, and (3) Yugoslavia being a Communist but also, more or less, "non-aligned" had the reputation of "looking the other way" when the occasional Czech, Slovak, Hungarian or Polish family "strayed" (with their car/belongings) into Austria / Italy when "on their way home ..."  Then in the 1990s, when tourism could have really exploded, came instead THE BALKAN WARS ... which, of course, all but wiped-out tourism during that time.  But it's been on the upswing again.  And the coast is both beautiful and again far less expensive than equivalent places on the other (Italian) side of the Adriatic.

... back to the story here ;-) ...

It's a lovely place where Grebo and Liliane are, though it may _not_ be a place that most American couples would go in this stage of their lives (different sensibilities) as the two are expecting their first baby and Liliane looks like she's in the last weeks of her pregnancy.

So they, along with others, including Italians -- this part of northern coastal Croatia had belonged to Venice / Italy for centuries before, and indeed, one of the drop dead beautiful Renaissance Era palaces shown in the film had belonged (again for centuries) to a quite prominent Italian family prior to the end of WW II (the CHICAGO based Bosnian born scriptwriter Aleksandar Hemon present for Q/A after the screening noted that the his Croatian collaborator Jasmila Žbanić had really wanted to underline this point, that a lot of this area had belonged to Italians prior to World War II, and yet, that there's also a peace / acceptance now between those "who used to live there" and those who "live there now" ... symbolized in the happy gregarious presence of the Italian tourists there today -- were enjoying themselves quite nicely in this Croatian resort, that IN MANY WAYS looked kinda like every other if perhaps slightly cheaper Florida / Bahamas resort today (down to the goofy "coconut shell" umbrellas on the beach).

Very good, the two are enjoying themselves "at the open air" beach-side club at the resort, which included some "live band karaoke." Grebo, who had apparently spent some of his youth playing in a "garage band" in Sarayevo ;-), certainly partakes.

But Liliane is taken aback by the "stunner" of an M.C. leading the resort's nighttime activities.  The M.C.'s name is Flora (played by Ada Condeescu [IMDb] []*), when she introduces herself to the two, she introduces herself as coming from Romania.  But there's more to the story.  (1) Liliane, remember she's 8 months pregnant, is immediately concerned that Flora's flirting a bit (too much) with her husband and (2) she has a history with Flora -- the two had worked closely, er, _very closely_, together while the two "were in college" ... "in Berlin" ;-).

Much has to ensue ... AND IT DOES ;-) ... Thematically, the film's _definitely_ in R-territory, though visually, the _only nudity_ that one does see is Grebo's quite hairy backside ;-).

For me, remember, I am a Catholic priest, this is such a transgressive film.  AND YET, it is ALSO VERY, VERY FUNNY and KIND.  And Good Readers, REMEMBER WHO MADE THIS FILM ... BOSNIANS ... the ones that just endured the Balkan Wars of the 1990s.

Yes, much is implied, but all but(t) nothing is shown ... and then remember the trauma that these nations went through less than a generation ago.  Indeed, the above mentioned co-scriptwriter for the film, Aleksandar Hemon noted in the Q&A that both he and his good friend Jasmila Žbanić the director _really_ wanted to make A COMEDY, to underline that "Being from the Balkans DOES NOT MEAN 'a life long subscription to genocide'" (HIS WORDS EXACTLY ;-).

So this is a lovely if often "very stupid" film ;-) and while certainly "morally plastic" ;-), again remember what these people went through, and that the whole film is truly done in very, very good fun.  

So while, definitely "not for the little ones," a GREAT JOB FOLKS, TRULY, TRULY GREAT JOB ;-)

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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