Bal-Can-Can

That "Bal-can-can" reps Macedonia's biggest-ever theatrical hit definitely says something about the local aud's ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. Already well-traveled on the fest circuit, it will likely attract scattered offshore theatrical sales and wider DVD exposure.

With:
With: Vlado Jovanovski, Adolfo Margiotta, Zvezda Angelovska, Branko Duric, Seka Sabljic, Antonella Troise, Toni Mihajlovski, Nikola Kojo, Dejan Acimovic, Petar Bozovic, Vasco Todorov, Branko Ognjanovski.

That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen corpse through the war-ravaged chaos of former Yugoslavian and USSR territories resembles Kusturica’s epic allegory “Underground,” but has its own distinct flavor. Already well-traveled on the fest circuit, it will likely attract scattered offshore theatrical sales and wider DVD exposure.

Writer-helmer Darko Mitrevski, expanding on the anarchic doomsday tenor of his 1998 feature debut “Goodbye 20th Century,” keeps pushing the envelope. Viewers may feel he crosses the line at numerous points, with the climactic burst of outrageously improbable “Rambo”-style heroics likely to strike most as overkill. Still, this cynical, hallucinatory, modern “Pilgrim’s Progress” is a trip, with memorably out-there sequences sure to build a cult rep among adventuresome cineastes.

Breakneck prologue sketches the petty-thieving days of two inseparable ne’er-do-wells (Vasko Todorov, Branko Ognjanovski) tricked into a doomed attempt at train robbery. Cornered by Macedonian soldiers, one spends the next several years languishing in prison; the other successfully bolts, finally making it to Italy. On their deathbeds, each tell their sons they are second-generation blood brothers, making the two sons, who’ve never met, swear absolute loyalty if fate ever brings them together.

Hapless Trendafil (Vlado Jovanovski) is a lifelong coward-turned-nervous wreck as civil war rages in Macedonia. His shrewish mother-in-law Zumbula (Seka Sabljic) and military-nut brother-in-law Dzango (Toni Mihajlovski) would happily shove him into the line of fire. But long-suffering wife Ruza (Zvezda Angelovska) still loves him enough to hide Trendafil from draft enforcers.

Once Trendafil, Ruza and Zumbula escape from Dzango and have cross the Albanian border, their car breaks down, Granny suffers a fatal stroke and someone steals the carpet in which they’ve temporarily rolled her corpse. This forces Trentafil to play his last card: calling the Italian “blood brother” he’s never known.

Santino (Adolfo Margiotta) is a petty operator who’s seldom seen action wilder than a strip-club. But despite their lack of common language, the two men soon drive off to retrieve granny.

Their odyssey becomes a wild-goose-chase twisting through just about every Balkan territory, with increasingly surreal and violent craziness at each stop. Corruption, arms trading, religious and ethnic hate, rape, torture seem the way of things. Some folks remain busy killing each other even though they’ve long since forgotten what were fighting for.

Arguable peak in cringe-inducing, bad-taste hilarity is when protags stumble into the middle of a Croation Hatfields-vs.-McCoys dispute where sworn enemies casually stop their warfare — alas, too briefly — to have lunch together.

Extreme content and grotesque comedy maintain a precarious balance until the long, unironic final setpiece finally stacks the deck so high it topples.

While Mitrevski isn’t working on anything like the physical scale or budgetary resources Kusturica had, pic generally rises to the challenge of its production ambitions. Perfs are spot-on, design contribs colorful.

Bal-Can-Can

Macedonia-Italy

Production: A Partysans, Verdana Film and Minerva Pictures production in association with the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Macedonia. Produced by Darko Mitrevski, Alessandro Verdecchi, Gianluca Curti, Carlo Dusi. Executive producer, Loris Curci. Directed, written by Darko Mitrevski.

Crew: Camera (color), Suki Medencevic, editor, Giacobbe Gamberini, music, Kiril Dzajkovski; production designer, Bujar Muca; costume designer, Zaklina Krstevska; special f/x, M'barek Zamal; sound, Nedad Vukadinovic, Claudio Toselli; assistant director, Milan Bulatovic. Reviewed at Cinequest, March 9, 2006. Running time: 89 MIN. (Macedonian, Italian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Russian, Serbo-Croatian dialogue)

With: With: Vlado Jovanovski, Adolfo Margiotta, Zvezda Angelovska, Branko Duric, Seka Sabljic, Antonella Troise, Toni Mihajlovski, Nikola Kojo, Dejan Acimovic, Petar Bozovic, Vasco Todorov, Branko Ognjanovski.

More Film

  • U.S.-China Film Talks Now Part of

    U.S.-China Film Talks Now Hostage to Trade War (Report)

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

  • Director Hirokazu Kore-eda holds the Palme

    Why 'Shoplifters' Director Hirokazu Kore-eda is Cannes' Favorite Japanese Auteur

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

  • John Cho Debra Messing Aneesh Chaganty

    'Searching' Takes Top Audience Award at L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

  • Happy as Lazzaro Cannes

    Netflix Buys Cannes Winners 'Happy as Lazzaro,' 'Girl' for North America, Latin America

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

  • Asia Argento arrives for the screening

    Asia Argento Makes Powerful Statement About Cannes' Role in Weinstein Scandal

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

  • Luc Besson

    Luc Besson Accused of Rape by Actress in France

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

  • Hirokazu Kore-eda, Spike Lee Win Top

    Japanese Director Hirokazu Kore-eda's 'Shoplifters' Wins Palme d'Or at Cannes

    That “Bal-can-can” reps Macedonia’s biggest-ever theatrical hit, outpacing even Hollywood blockbuster, definitely says something about the local aud’s ability to identify with dark, absurdist material that might frighten away just about any other mainstream public. (Admittedly, it took only 120,000 patrons to set the record.) Picaresque black comedy about a Macedonian/Italian duo chasing a stolen […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content