Making one hell of a joyful noise, helmer and guitar slinger Emir Kusturica’s free-wheeling docu about his raucous side project, the Balkan big band No Smoking (Zabranjeno Pusenje, in the original Serbo-Croat, alternately called the No Smoking Orchestra), applies the decibel level and stylishly grungy look of Jim Jarmusch’s Neil Young profile “Year of the Horse” to the sociopolitical structure — if not exactly the sheer cool — of Wim Wenders’ “Buena Vista Social Club.” Ominously, at least one Berlin aud seemed less inspired by the sonic blitzkrieg than cowed by it, suggesting that item may play better to crowds already converted by the eclectic outfit’s recent Euro live shows than to helmer’s arthouse fanbase (although they do gig regularly at fests screening his films). Ancillary should be super, with nice revenue streams in the offing for DVD, soundtrack and back catalog action.
Ten-piece band has been together in one form or another since 1980 founding in Sarajevo, refining their so-called “New Primitivism” musical approach described as a post-Tito cultural resistance. Their music actually seems to involve a no-holds-barred blending of punk’s anarchic energy with strains of classical, folk, jazz improvisational rock, Latin American and especially indigenous Roma (gypsy) music.
Mid-decade, combo ran afoul of the government for an onstage pun by founder and vocalist Dr. Nelle Karajilic equating a faulty Marshall amp with the newly dead Tito.In 1986 group reformed with a new bass player and Kusturica, fresh from the success of “When Father Was Away on Business.” Relocating to Belgrade just before the war, ensemble surfaced to perform score of helmer’s “Black Cat, White Cat.”
Incarnation of group seen here, fresh from 1999 “Side Effects” tour, mid-2000 release of sixth album, “Unza Unza Time” and more current dates, comes across as a sweatier melange of Frank Zappa, the Pogues and Jethro Tull — with a horn section.
Pic blends wildly theatrical Euro concert footage, often discordant backstage antics, historical clips from Karajilic’s controversial “Surrealist Top List” TV show and filming of new video into a supercharged diary of life on the road and through the years.Tech credits are stylishly scruffy, with the 14 credited “cinematographers” actually capturing the action on digital video and, of course, super-8. On the right system, concert sound mix can wake the dead.