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War of the Worlds | The Nation

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War of the Worlds

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The Maxim Gorky is steaming down the Danube, laden with armed guards and contraband. The Gypsies are happily sipping diesel fuel but spitting out water with disgust. At his headquarters and gravel factory, the old crime boss watches Casablanca from his bed, obsessively replaying the last scene; in his stretch limousine, the new crime boss snorts cocaine from a hollowed-out crucifix and chants rap with his personal team of backup singers; while in a ramshackle house by the river, a would-be criminal is again failing so badly, he can't even keep his dead father properly iced. At a turn in the road, a pig roots on an abandoned car, systematically demolishing it; while dogs mate, geese honk, gerbils on a wheel provide air conditioning and the band plays nonstop.

About the Author

Stuart Klawans
The Nation's film critic Stuart Klawans is author of the books Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order (a finalist for...

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As the dead father observes, swilling champagne from the bottle, "What a life!" This chaos, this carnival, this former Yugoslavia, is the vision of director Emir Kusturica, who apparently did not reach exhaustion with his great and mistreated epic Underground but merely aggravated himself into a still-more-frenzied state of cinema.

His new film, Black Cat, White Cat (co-written with Gordan Mihic), has suffered its own problems. It was supposed to be released in the United States last spring but was held back, due to a little bombing campaign. Maybe the citizens of our Republic will be no more willing to watch the film now, in autumn. But what the hell! What a life! Pay your money, I say, and take the ride.

No more subtle than a NATO air raid, Black Cat, White Cat features a large cast with disorderly teeth and a tendency to dance at the least provocation. What are they dancing about? Marriages, among other things--though in Kusturica's mad, fallen world, which makes the chaos of West Beirut look like doubles tennis, the brides and grooms are mismatched and have to sort themselves out on their own. Young Zare (Florijan Ajdini), son of the incompetent would-be criminal, loves Ida (Branka Katic), the gun-toting ward of a beer-hall proprietor, and has consummated his innocent passion with her amid the sunflowers. But Dadan (Srdan Todorovic), the new criminal boss, has other plans, and insists that Zare marry the Gypsy princess Afrodita (Salija Ibraimova), who would sooner swallow rat poison, or even water.

Did you follow that? No matter. The band plays. Love conquers all. Everything has already fallen apart, so who cares, anyway? See Black Cat, White Cat; and then, if you're in New York City, go to the New York Film Festival, which on October 3 will show the original, full-length television version of Underground as a special presentation. That one will last you approximately five hours and twelve minutes, not including toilet breaks--so get your tickets now, and pack a lunch.

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