Serbian helmer Darko Lungulov tracks two strangers in two strange lands in his first fiction outing.

Serbian helmer Darko Lungulov tracks two strangers in two strange lands in his first fiction outing, “Here and There,” contrasting the adventures of an enterprising young Belgrade native in New York with the discoveries of an aging down-and-out New Yorker in Belgrade. Laid-back character study accrues small epiphanies with patient care, its mordant Eastern European humor tempered by a gentler sense of postwar absurdity, with vet actress Mirjana Karanovic supplying a serene wryness. Slight, extremely likable pic, a sly variant on recent immigrant movies like “The Visitor” and “Goodbye Solo,” has an outside chance at arthouse play before cable beckons.

American thesp David Thornton, his signature pompadour looking more straggly than usual, adds his own brand of dyspeptic cynicism to the advanced case of depression suffered by his character, Robert, a 52-year old jazz musician. Unable to work (he hasn’t touched his sax in months), newly evicted and rapidly becoming persona non grata with Rose (Cyndi Lauper, Thornton’s real-life wife), whom he’s staying with, Robert accepts an offer of $5,000 from moving man Branko (Branislav Trifunovic) to travel to Serbia and marry Branko’s g.f., Ivana, in order to legally get her into the States.

The geographic route is a familiar one for helmer Lungulov; his first film, “Escape,” was a docu about a woman who fled the bombings in Serbia with her children, only to find herself in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Once in Belgrade, Robert predictably proves more comfortable with the anti-American invective of Ivana’s uncle than with the warm welcome provided by his hostess, Branko’s mother Olga (Karanovic). Surly Robert rebuffs her overtures but, after getting back a taste of his own ungraciousness, begins to thaw, slowly flexing his atrophied social muscles and connecting to people around him, chief among them the captivating Olga.

Lungulov intercuts the blossoming romance between Robert and Olga — taking them out into the streets, markets and cafes of Belgrade — with the travails of Branko, who’s thrust into the junkyards, back alleys and police stations of the Big Apple after the theft of his van.

If the Old World sections of “Here and There” proceed with attenuated timeouts in the sensually charged confines of a tight elevator or with stopovers at a neighbor’s house full of memories, the events in New York hurtle toward resolution with youthful impatience, edited with a brusqueness that allows no rose-sniffing detours.

Here and There

Serbia-Germany

Production

A KinoKamera (Serbia)/Penrose Film (Germany) production, in collaboration with Joroni Film. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by George Lekovic, Vladan Nikolic, David Nemer, Branislav Trifunovic, Darko Lungulov. Co-producers, Goran Petmil, Felix Eisele, Julia Kleinhenz, Katja Siegel, Jim Stark. Executive producer, Peter Schwartzkopff. Directed, written by Darko Lungulov.

Crew

Camera (color), Mathias Schoningh; editor, Dejan Urosevic; music, Dejan Pejovic; production designer, Phil Buccellato, Marija Jocic, Ivana Nikolic; costume designer, Zora Mojsilovic, Laura Schwartz; sound (Dolby Digital), Zoran Maksimovic, Michael Sterkin; sound designer, Roland Vajs. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Center, New York, April 10, 2009. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 82 MIN.

With

David Thornton, Mirjana Karanovic, Branislav Trifunovic, Antone Pagan, Fedja Stojanovic, Jelena Mrdja, Goran Radakovic, Cyndi Lauper. (English, Serbian dialogue)
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