Review: ‘Byzantine Blue’

It is amazing that, in the midst of war, Serbia continues to produce films like "Byzantine Blue" (original title), an escapist fantasy set in no particular place or time. Superbly shot by director Dragan Marinkovic, pic describes the passing infatuation of a bored rich girl for a monk-like painter. Item is worth a look as a curio.

It is amazing that, in the midst of war, Serbia continues to produce films like “Byzantine Blue” (original title), an escapist fantasy set in no particular place or time. Superbly shot by director Dragan Marinkovic, pic describes the passing infatuation of a bored rich girl for a monk-like painter. Item is worth a look as a curio.

Liza (Katarina Zutic), a beautiful “babe” who’s also got brains, is prepping for a big math exam at college. In her futuristic home, she designs complicated experiments with numbered turtles. One day, a blue stain mysteriously appears on her hands, leading her to the lab of Arandjel (Lazar Ristovski), who’s spent his life searching for the formula to the indelible blue paint used in Byzantine icons.

Older, bearded and spiritual, Arandjel contrasts favorably with Liza’s rich, fashion-conscious b.f. The two consummate their mutual attraction atop a white ox at the seaside — a typically stunning image that verges on high kitsch.

Pic is meticulously made, stuffed with eye-catching visuals (including some amusing animation) and edited at a consistently snappy pace. Young Zutic is a smart and sexy lead, able to carry the whole film on her bare shoulders. Like the rest of the cast, she seems to have stepped out of an erotic-adventure comic book.

Oblique refs to the present grim reality are almost nil, though at one point characters discuss “the world beneath the world of appearances.” However, pic lifts its fig-leaf in the final shot where, after the painter is dead and Liza has resumed her social obligations, a tag line informs us: “Her real name is Europe. His is the Balkans.”

Byzantine Blue

(SERBIAN)

Production

A Vans Film & Video Distributors (Belgrade) release of a Star 6/Balkan Film Co. production, in association with Ministry of Culture. Produced by Dejan Vrazalic. Directed by Dragan Marinkovic. Screenplay, Milorad Pavic, Nada Markovic-Bebler, Marinkovic, based on Pavic's short stories.

Crew

Camera (color), Predrag Todorovic; editor, Petar Markovic; animation, Gama Electronics. Reviewed on vidcassette, Rome, Jan. 4, 1994. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Liza ... Katarina Zutic Arandjel ... Lazar Ristovski
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