Crna macka, beli macor (Black Cat, White Cat)
Directed by Emir Kusturica
Review by Matt Heffernan
With all the political unrest in Yugoslavia, we tend to forget that people there still have everyday lives. Director Emir Kusturica reminds us that they also have art.
Matko (Bajram Severdzan) lives on a seaport with his 17-year-old son, Zare (Florijan Ajdini). He is a small-time racketeer, and does business with the local Gypsy gangsters. When one scheme goes awry, he ends up owing a large amount of money to Dadan (Srdjan Todorovic), and he cannot pay up. Dadan says he will waive the debt if Zare marries his sister: a short, belligerent 25-year-old.
Zare is actually in love with Ida (Branka Katic), the granddaughter of an innkeeper. Dadan's sister isn't too thrilled either. It is up to Matko to get this marriage on track, despite the meddling of Zare and Ida.
But that's just part of the story. Black Cat, White Cat is a wonderfully warm comedy. I hate to use such a cliché, but it really is a feel-good movie. All the characters are brought to exhuberant life, and their joy is contagious. Especially wonderful is Zabit Memedov, who plays Matko's ailing father. His character checks out of the hospital, and is no longer afraid of death. He plays folk music and dances with his friends, and looks like the happiest person in the world.
American audiences are used to seeing Gypsies portrayed as mystical nomads, who read fortunes and pick pockets, and wear lots of beads and bandanas. Here we see a more intimate portrayal, like how The Godfather brought us into the Italian mafia. Of course, the Gypsy gangs are much like any other gangs. We see their passion, and their humor, which is broad at times, but still very engaging.
Yugoslavia needs more people like Kusturica. He is definitely a man of great joy and love of humanity.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Crna macka, beli macor (1998)
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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan