Hard-up poet falls for hooker-with-a-rep in “Carmen,” a slickly packaged Balkan grunger set in the urban underbelly of Slovenia. Though there’s not a whole lot new going on in the storyline, which could be set in any hotblooded modern metropolis, the film is technically the equal of anything from better-known European industries, positioning Slovenia as a filmmaking territory to watch.
Plot centers on an assorted group of thieves, whores, drunks and derelicts who hang around a railroad bar, wherein wanders Goran (Sebastijan Cavazza) on a research mission for the latest potboiler he’s forced to write to pay the rent. There he meets the mysterious, dipsomaniacal Carmen (Natasa Barbara Gracner), and soon he’s joining her and her sleazy associates in nickel-and-dime robberies.
Despite being warned not to fall in love with her, Goran does just that. Carmen’s secret is that her mother is dying from cancer; the pressure of this, and her inability to kick the bottle, test even the fortitude of the selfless Goran.
Pic plays lighter onscreen than it reads on paper, mainly due to its ultra-slick look. Highly professional camerawork by ace lenser Tomislav Pinter (blue-light night scenes and play with shadow) gives a false sheen to the otherwise lowlife milieu.
Overall, pic is not remotely moving, but playing is weathered and colorful across the board, led by Balkan hunk Cavazza and elfin-faced Gracner. Though everyone acts tough, and the dialogue is salty, first-time feature director Metod Pevec never lets you forget you’re watching a movie rather than a slice of social realism.