Leisurely but decidedly un-PC comedy-drama could easily lose a reel, but nonetheless has more than its fair share of cantankerous charms.
A group of crotchety codgers attempt to revive the punk-rock band they all played in 17 years earlier in “Punk Is Not Dead,” from Macedonian scribe-helmer Vladimir Blazevski (“The Revolution Boulevard”). Essentially a road-trip movie, pic charts the journey across the Balkan peninsula needed to regroup all the former bandmates in time for their comeback concert. Leisurely but decidedly un-PC comedy-drama could easily lose a reel, but nonetheless has more than its fair share of cantankerous charms. Local and regional response should be lively, with chances further afield including fest and tube play.
Hot-blooded (at least in his own mind) Macedonian Mirsa (Jordan Simonov) is a 40-year-old deadbeat who is asked to reunite with his former band members for a gig organized by an NGO on the other side of the country. The opportunity to relive some of the band’s former glory proves too irresistible to pass up, though — horror of horrors — the concert’s in a town full of Albanians.
One of the characters suggests that “dealing drugs for the Albanians is one thing, playing a concert for them is an entirely different matter,” but it’s not just the Macedonians’ western neighbors who are in for frequent verbal abuse. The film’s derisive but frequently funny ribbing is soundly based on the principle of equal-opportunity irreverence: From a handful of effective scenes early on, involving Mirsa and his ex-g.f, Nina (Kamka Tocinovski), it’s already clear that a foul mouth can scarcely hide a heart of gold. Though barely shocking by local standards, the frequent swearing, nudity and generally uncomfortable situations make this far from a prim mainstream entertainment.
Mirsa and Nina set out with Ljak (Toni Mihajlovski), Mirsa’s bald, slaughterhouse-worker brother, who was also part of the band, on a trip to visit the other two members, who now live in Serbia and Kosovo. “By phone, they’d dismiss our request to join us in two seconds,” is the feeble excuse offered here, though it’s clear these men just want to get out of Skopje and enjoy some time off from their own miserable lives.
Huge quantities of alcohol are consumed and a stolen pig carcass is sold even before the trio hits the road. The rest of the film unspools like a typical road movie, with each different locale offering new stories, characters and mishaps. The traveling group slowly grows bigger, the weirdest addition being a pet frog, affectionately called Ferdinand, that they pick up at a lakeside yoga retreat.
By necessity, “Punk Is Not Dead” has a somewhat meandering narrative, but even so, the pic feels a little aimless. It’s clear that local auds will get more of the subtext related to the men’s crude reflections on how life has changed in the past 17 years in the Balkans. But these ruminations never take centerstage, leaving only the protags as the cement between different scenes, and though convincingly inhabited by the actors, they never quite become fully drawn characters. Screenplay weaknesses are something of a surprise, since helmer Blazevski has been more active as a screenwriter (“The Great Water,” “Gypsy Magic”) than as a director in recent years.
Tech contributions match the grouchy personalities of the protags.