Black Cat, White Cat (1998)

Sunflower Seductions

This was recommended by a friend, as the best film she knows. This is an intelligent woman, so I endured some frustrating months trying to find it in the US, finally to see it on an overseas trip.

It wasn’t a great experience for me, excepting two elements. My guess is that I am not from the south of European as my friend is. The stereotypes that are exploited here are simply unknown to me, and all the humour depends on exploiting the twinge that real stereotypes elicit. Also, as an American, I get no reward from the knowledge that this is genuinely human from a region that was at the time deep in the most depraved state genocide. The distance between civilisation and barbarity in this area of Europe was little more than the distance I often drive to visit a movie theatre.

Lacking that, what I get is zaniness unconnected to my sense of self and dread. So the zaniness taken out its situation has to stand on its own. It doesn’t for me, because it is not handled as a cinematic value, rather just a colour, a tone.

If you have not seen this, it is a sort of “Cannery Row” based on the foibles of Balkan Gypsies: twisted families, peculiar macho drives, love theft and lies.

There are two very lovely things here. One is the liquid environment. The locations and how they are handled is extremely cinematic. Everything is in motion: gaggles of birds, other animals, boats on the river, an old gangster in a raggedy vehicle and of course the troop and camera. The fluidity of this is far more valuable than the humor, at least for me.

The other lovely thing is a seduction scene that may be one of the most engaging in cinema. A quirky young woman has her eye on a young man. Like all men in this world, he is a nitwit, but is young and clean. She leads him to a field of sunflowers, where she romps while stripping and enticing by running away. Her teasing giggle is profoundly attractive, and I suppose that this one scene must have percolated for a long time. (In all later scenes, the quirkiness of the girl is gone, and she plays simply a love interest.)

Oddly, the cats of the title are the clumsiest and least integrated bit.

Posted in 2010

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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