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Rivers of Babylon

Dark satire from Slovakia about the fall of communism and the arrival of cutthroat capitalism may play better in neighboring ex-Communist states than in the West. Although top-notch production values make this an attractive foreign entry, content does not travel as well, limiting possibilities beyond the fest circuit.

Dark satire from Slovakia about the fall of communism and the arrival of cutthroat capitalism may play better in neighboring ex-Communist states than in the West. Although top-notch production values make this an attractive foreign entry, content does not travel as well, limiting possibilities beyond the fest circuit.

Set in 1989-90, around the time the Iron Curtain was shredding, pic is set primarily in a Bratislava hotel whose boilers are maintained by the loutish Racz (Andrej Hryc). Knowing he can’t be fired, he turns off the heat and allows himself to be bribed with sex, money and goods to restore services. As the narrator — a pimp named Urban (Ady Hajdu) — explains, the people are used to being kicked in the bum, and Racz is simply providing them with the leadership the collapsing state no longer can. By film’s end he is a ruthless and successful businessman, kidnapping or killing those who get in his way. To Western viewers this will seem decidedly one-note, although there are undoubtedly nuances that don’t survive translation. Tech credits are quite good.

Rivers of Babylon

(SATIRICAL DRAMA)

Production: A Marian Urban/Alef Film & Media Group/Ceska Televize/Ateliery Zlin/Podium/TV Markiza presentation. Produced by Marian Urban. Directed by Vlado Balco. Screenplay, Peter Pistanek, Marian Urban, based on the novel by Pistanek. Camera (color), Martin Strba; editor, Dusan Milko; music, Jaroslav Filip; art director, Milan Feriencik; costumes, Katarina Bielikova. Reviewed at Boston Film Festival, Sept. 16, 1999. Running time: 102 MIN.With: Andrej Hryc, Ady Hajdu, Diana Morova, Barbara Kodetova.

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