Leading Serbian adman turned helmer Milos Jovanovic orchestrates a stream-of-consciousness dream state in “Memo,” his debut feature. Pic traces how war and totalitarian regimes toss one family along the soul-destroying currents of the mid-20th century. Designed to replicate memory, with all its distortions and irrational emphases, “Memo” has difficulty sustaining an emotional connection due in part to a lack of incisive characters. Pic is a praiseworthy first feature, but, outside fest exposure, takers will be thin.
A lyrical opening is quickly interrupted by the first signs of the coming storm. Teen Benja Kon (Nemanja Jovanovic, son of helmer and producer) lives with his family in an East European village whose inhabitants are either swept up by invading armies or collaborators acting out resentments on their neighbors. Jovanovic keeps identifiable symbols to a minimum, so uniforms and places connote a range of oppressive, Kafka-esque affiliations. It’s too easy to ascribe the cinematic style to Kusturica’s influence since Jovanovic uses the general Balkan penchant for absurdism as a means of critical exploration. Tech problems at screening meant only first 10 minutes were shown in 35mm — lensing is crisp.