A Film a Week - Grandpa Goes South / Dedek gre na jug

 previously published on Cineuropa

More than 30 years ago, Vinci Vogue Anžlovar debuted with the film Grandma Goes South (1991), a relatively mellow comedy about an elderly lady escaping her nursing home, picking up two jazz musicians and driving off southward in a Mercedes-Benz convertible to start a new life. However, the film was a milestone of sorts simply by virtue of being the first film released in Slovenia since the country’s independence from Yugoslavia, and it became a smash hit domestically. Anžlovar is now back with his newest feature deliberately titled Grandpa Goes South.

Caution should be advised here because this is by no means a sequel and actually has little to do with Anžlovar’s debut, though it does feature elderly people (in this case, two of them) going in the same general direction in a motor vehicle (this time, it is a motorhome) against the backdrop of jazz music (here mixed with Balkans Gypsy tunes). Mixing the tropes of the broad comedy, the road movie and the gangster flick, it is actually closer tone-wise to the early noughties revival within Slovenian cinema of light 1980s Yugoslav comedy, as seen in Damjan Kozole’s Porno Film (2000), Branko Đurić’s Cheese and Jam (2003) and Marko Naberšnik’s Rooster’s Breakfast (2007).

Anžlovar opens his film with three plots following three pairs of characters. Troubled jazz musician Vlado (thesp Vlado Novák) abducts his best friend and ex band-mate Boris (Boris Cavazza, recently glimpsed in Sanremo and Once Were Humans) from the hospital with the mission to take him to his long-lost love Neda who lives in Serbia. After a fight, Esma (Zala Đurić, a rising star of Slovenian cinema) joins her boyfriend Peter (Timon Šturbej) on his job driving Miki (Maruša Majer) and Esad (Nenad Tokalić), a couple of assassins, on their mission, not knowing that they are about to serve as scapegoats. After somehow running away in the car, Esma and Peter get into a car accident which leaves him dead and her injured, and she is saved by Boris and Vlado. Through Esma’s connection to Romani travellers, the trio continues their run with them, with the brass music festival in Guča, Serbia as their final destination.

Judging by the response on the festival circuit (the film premiered with little fanfare at CinEast in Luxembourg and its domestic festival premiere at the Festival of Slovenian Film resulted in one Vesna Award for Best Supporting Actor awarded to Jonas Žnidaršič, playing the inspector who joins the chase later on), Grandpa Goes South stands a better chance with wider audiences in regular distribution, especially in the Balkans region. Its blend of humour relying on the stereotypes of silly old men, magical and wise Roma people and gangsters from the Balkans might prove to be too politically insensitive for Central- and Western Europe. The actors are clearly the trump card, with Novák and Cavazza having substantial chemistry playing their usual screen personas of a vagabond and a smooth operator, respectively. Đurić provides some youthful energy to complement them and Majer is clearly having a lot of fun playing the philosophically-inclined assassin.

However, the film suffers from the “sprinter’s logic”, starting in a high tempo that is bound to fall half-way through and not rise until the end. Moreover, the cinematography by Miloš Srdić is a tad too postcard-worthy, the music score by Milko Lazar and Anžlovar himself is a little overbearing in its omnipresence, and there is a bit of imbalance regarding the build-up to and the punchline of the jokes. This is especially obvious during the elaborately constructed sequence in an underground auto-shop that seems lifted from Emir Kusturica’s comedies, and is operated by Goran Navojec’s Burduš (named after the titular character from a Yugoslav film from the 1980s), who looks like a riff on Danny Trejo’s work in the films of Robert Rodriguez.

No comments:

Post a Comment