Proof of the Europudding is in "Someone Else's America," a delightfully quirky, well-observed character comedy that viewers can digest sans cross-cultural burps. This fairy tale-like study of a friendship between two Euro bozos in Brooklyn is a charmer on every level.

Proof of the Europudding is in “Someone Else’s America,” a delightfully quirky, well-observed character comedy that viewers can digest sans cross-cultural burps. Directed and written by Serbs, lensed largely in a Hamburg studio by a Greek, produced by a Franco-British-German troika, and featuring a rich mix of international thesps, this fairy tale-like study of a friendship between two Euro bozos in Brooklyn is a charmer on every level. With critical help and careful nurturing, B.O. returns could be modestly warm among discerning auds.

Bayo (Miki Manojlovic) is a Montenegran illegal in N.Y. who does construction gigs and works cleaning up the scuzzy Brooklyn bar of Alonso (Tom Conti), a shifty-eyed Spaniard who lives with his blind mother. Bayo also shares a room atop Alonso’s bar with his pet rooster. Unknown to Bayo, his young daughter Savka (Andjela Stojkovic) is seriously ill back home in the mountains of Montenegro, so the whole family decides to immigrate illegally to the U.S. to join the paterfamilias.

Their trek takes them via Mexico and the Rio Grande, where youngest kid Pepo apparently is swept away. When the rest of the family finally reaches Brooklyn, they adapt to the underbelly of the American Dream in various ways. Smartest off the blocks is eldest son Luka (Sergej Trifunovic), who smartens up Alonso’s bar and zeroes in on a Chinese girl who just happens to have a green card.

While Bayo mopes about his lost son, Alonso tries to instill inhim a sense that life must go on. Together, the duo shake off their blues and turn a new page in their New World existence.

Though the film centers on the volatile friendship between Alonso and Bayo, it’s very much an ensemble piece, with a large cast and a narrative style that shows a Central European disregard for transitions and doesn’t loiter on the sidewalk. Paskaljevic’s view of his characters is alert to their shortcomings, but film is done with a twinkle in the eye; even the self-centered Luka is ultimately portrayed in kindly terms.

Aside from the foible-driven character focus, it’s the inventive, left-field ideas that really give the movie its charm. Among the funniest segs is Alonso’s stunt enabling his blind mother to revisit her home village before she dies — done by rigging two airline seats in his Brooklyn courtyard, turning on a tape of a plane taking off and building a stone well with a goat attached, for her to feel “on arrival.”

Performances by the whole cast are well done but not overcooked, from Conti’s Spaniard through Manojlovic’s depressive but dogged Bayo (whose catchphrase is “We no surrender”), to quieter but equally off-center supports such as veteran Maria Casares as Alonso’s mother.

A major assist in creating the pic’s special flavor is the giant Brooklyn back-streets set built at Studio Hamburg, Germany. In real locations, the whole suspension of disbelief might not have worked so well; but with a busy effects track of Gotham sounds and Yorgos Arvanitis’ front-lit lensing, the bulk of the picture takes on a slightly unreal, studio feel that perfectly matches the rich stew of characters. Actual location shooting (including Greece subbing for Montenegro) doesn’t disturb the overall tone.

Someone Else's America

French-U.K.-German

Production

A Mact Prods. (France)/Intrinsica Films (U.K.)/Lichtblick Filmproduktion, Stefi 2 (Germany) production, in association with Pandora Cinema (France) and with participation of Canal Plus, the European Co-Production Fund (U.K.), Lightworks Edition Systems, Guisana and Singidunum Film Prods. (International sales: Pandora, Paris and L.A.) Produced by David Rose, Helga Baehr, Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre. Co-producers, Gabrielle Tana, Johanna Baldwin. Directed by Goran Paskaljevic. Screenplay, Gordan Mihic. English dialogue, Mary Popovic, Rose.

Crew

Camera (Fujicolor), Yorgos Arvanitis; editor, William Diver; music, Andrew Dickson; art direction, Wolf Seesselberg; production design consultant, Miljen Kljakovic (Kreka); costume design, Charlotte Holdich; sound (Dolby SR), Aad Wirtz, Christian Wangler, Francois Groult; makeup, Francoise Chapuis-Asselin; line producers, Jean-Yves Asselin, Nina B. Busch, Angeliki Arvanitis, Alejandro Springall, Robin O'Hara; assistant director, Vladimir Torbica. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Directors Fortnight), May 21, 1995. Running time: 96 min.

With

Alonso - Tom Conti Bayo - Miki Manojlovic Alonso's Mother - Maria Casares Bayo's Mother - Zorka Manojlovic Luka - Sergej Trifunovic Chinese girl - Chia-ching Niu Savka - Andjela Stojkovic Afisi - Ananda Ellis Afisi's Brother - John Norman Thomas Sam - Jonathon Peck Foreman - Michael Willis (English, Serbian, Spanish dialogue)
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