The chuckling style and nostalgic tone may be pure Neil Simon, but the content of this 1992 autobiographical feature by Goran Markovic is something else again–a fascinating, pointed, satirical look at growing up in Yugoslavia in the mid-50s, obviously given more edge by the fact that it couldn’t have been made until fairly recently. The ten-year-old narrating hero–an overweight worshiper of Marshal Tito sharing a cramped Belgrade apartment with his artistic parents as well as his grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousin–develops a crush on an older girl who’s an orphan. After writing a dutiful essay declaring that he loves Tito more than his own parents, he is selected to go on a camping trip to the ruler’s homeland-and so is the girl. But he hits it off poorly with the tour leader and eventually has some second thoughts about Tito as well. Entertaining and often illuminating, this offers a much more interesting reevaluation of the 50s than most Hollywood equivalents. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 25
through March 3.
Brilliant, problematic, and hyperbolic, Mike Leigh’s postapocalyptic look at post-Thatcher England may look like allegory, but only because the picaresque story line, this time involving lone individuals rather than families, seems to sprawl more randomly than usual (which, incidentally, makes the customary clash of acting styles all the more glaring). What passes for a plot involves the restless, random movements of a working-class pontificator on the dole who’s visiting his former girlfriend in London, to no clear purpose, and a number of the people he encounters, including his former girlfriend’s roommate, a homeless couple, a philosophical night watchman, and a couple of women who take him in. We also periodically follow a similarly misogynistic, sadistic yuppie whose path eventually crosses the hero’s; it’s here that Leigh’s occasional weakness for caricature seems most obvious. Though far from perfect, this film is galvanizing and disturbing, powerfully acted and teasingly unresolved. With David Thewlis, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Peter Wight, and Greg Cruttwell. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 18 through 24.
A juicy and deliciously over-the-top piece of Spanish raunchiness with melodramatic as well as erotic overtones, this won the Silver Lion at the 1992 Venice film festival. Bigas Luna’s comedy–whose title might
be roughly translated (with pun added) as Double Hammv–is funnier to my taste than anything by Pedro Almodovar in his postpunk phase. (The fleshy and uninhibited satirical mode recalls Al Capp’s comic strip Li’l Abner in more ways than one.) Determined to prevent her son from marrying a prostitute’s daughter who works in a men’s underwear factory, the wife of the factory’s owner hires a stud to seduce her, then falls for the same hunk of meat herself; in the ensuing fracas involving food, class, animals, passion, and porking, overripeness is all, right down to the climactic ham-bone duel. With Stefania Sandrelli, Javier Bardem, Jordi Molla, and Penelope Cruz. Pipers Alley.