Black Cat, White Cat

on September 10, 1999 by Luisa F. Ribeiro
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The slapstick adventures of small-time gypsies in a Yugoslav village on the Danube River whose two rival families get caught up in dizzying confusion of slick deals, arranged marriages and uncertain deaths is as offbeat as it sounds. Frequently wearing in its breakneck pace and farcical excess, this latest from writer-director Emir Kusturica eventually grows on one not through its relentless laughs, but by its unexpected sentiment about romance and friendship.
Matko Destanov and his dutiful teenage son Zare hustle as best they can in their dive by the Danube in a futile attempt to raise money to pay back the local don, the aged Grga Zarije, after a con deal goes awry. The godfather-like Zarije, who harbors a deep reverence for Casablanca's Rick Blane, is friendly rivals with Matko's father Grga Pitic, even though the two men haven't seen one another in over 20 years. Neither of the aging dons have any idea of Matko's financial blunder--or the extremes he has taken to cover up. Zarije's disco-obsessed and dope-addled son, Dadan, in his bid to take over, determines that his sister Sujka will unite his family with what he thinks is the Destanov fortune, by marrying her to naive Zare. Tiny, sparrow-like Sujka resists the plan, dreaming instead of finding true love. Zare, meanwhile, is smitten by the local shopgirl, exuberant, shrewd Ida, whose loving grandmother isn't beyond trying to sell her in marriage to Dadan.
Winner of Venice's Silver Lion for Best Director, "Black Cat, White Cat" was originally begun as a documentary on gypsy musicians used in Kusturica's previous film, "Underground." Kusturica grew so fond of the insouciant lives of his subjects, he and Gordon Mihic turned the documentary into this slapstick romance. The result is occasionally confusing and frequently silly, but the utterly genuine appeal of guileless Zare and sparkling tomboy Ida (who looks like a young Frances McDormand) holds together the often cornball excess that includes dwarfs and giants and a return of the dead. Srdan Todorovic's over-the-top portrayal of hopelessly unhip dope lord Dadan is priceless. Starring Bajram Severdzan, Florijan Ajdini, Branka Katic and Jasar Destani. Directed by Emir Kusturica. Written by Emir Kusturica and Gordon Mihic. Produced by Karl Baumgartner. An October release. Serbo-Croation language; English subtitles. Rated R for strong language, drug use and some violence. Running time: 129 min
Tags: Starring Bajram Severdzan, Florijan Ajdini, Branka Katic and Jasar Destani. Directed by Emir Kusturica. Written by Emir Kusturica, Gordon Mihic, Produced by Karl Baumgartner, October
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