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Time Of The Gypsies
1988
Directed by Emir Kustarica
Running time 142 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


Emir Kusturica's Time Of The Gypsies is a marvellous film that deservedly won him the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in the year of its release. Combining social realism with a kind of Eastern European supernaturalism and serving it up with ribald gallows humour the film tells the coming-of-age story of Perhan (Davor Dujmovic), an ungainly Yuogslavian gypsy lad who lives with his devoted grandmother (Ljubica Adzovic) and his love for Azra (Sinolicka Trpkova).

Like a Grabd Guignol Fellini Kusturic adelights in his grotesque characters (most of the players are real gypsies) and their crazy, violent beyond-the-pale ways, a part-intoxicated, mainly inebriated makeshift world of thieves and inbreds. In order to help his much younger crippled sister and make money to buy his would-be bride, Perhan travels to Italy with Ahmed (Bora Todorovic) a swaggering crime boss from his ghetto who runs a business in prostitution, child trafficking, organized beggary and anything else that will net him some money.

Whilst the underlying material is quite depressing, the treatment of it is absurdly carnivalesque with some beautifully staged moments from the skilfully choregraphed opening scene in which a phenomenonally ugly new bride berates her drunken husband for ruining her wedding to when  Perhan’s desperate uncle hoists the family shack from its foundations in the pouring rain in order to convince them to give him money so that he can keep gambling.  

Kusturica would repeat and amplify the gleeful tragi-comic style with Underground (1995) and Black Cat, White Cat (1998) but this remains his finest hour.

 

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