Mao Tse Tung

Arriving nearly 20 years past its sell-by date, the broad political comedy "Mao Tse Tung," from Albanian helmer Besnik Bisha, comes off as a repetitive, self-consciously colorful curio.

With:
With: Fadil Hasa, Miola Sitaj, Ola Sadiku, Marko Bitraku, Vangiel Toce, Zeraudin Dokle.

Arriving nearly 20 years past its sell-by date, the broad political comedy “Mao Tse Tung,” from Albanian helmer Besnik Bisha, comes off as a repetitive, self-consciously colorful curio. Unfolding over the 1970s in Albania, it uses the country’s once-strong relationship with China as the departure point for a tale of a wily gypsy who names his ninth son Mao Tse Tung and, for a short time, reaps unexpected benefits. Pic had a two-week release at home and has been making the rounds at Eastern European fests, but seems unlikely to travel further.

Leaving no Gypsy stereotype untouched, and replete with over-extended choruses of skewed political song, conventionally shot pic pits Romany chieftan Hekuran (stage actor Fadil Hasa, in a not very subtle perf) against none-too-bright Communist Party functionaries who froth over the way he has manipulated revolutionary discipline. Overall thesping style is burlesque, with a constant refrain of “heh heh heh” from Hekuran. But after China breaks with Albania in 1978, Hekuran’s enemies finally get to laugh at his expense. Comedy quotient for Western auds might increase slightly if there were English translations for the lyrics of bowdlerized songs.

Mao Tse Tung

Albania

Production: A B&G Film Pro production in co-production with Digitalb, TVSH (Albanian Public Television). (International sales: B&G Film Pro, Tirana, Albania.) Produced by Besnik Bisha, Sadush Ylli. Directed by Besnik Bisha. Screenplay, Besnik Mustafaj, based on his novel.

Crew: Camera (color), Nino Celeste; music, Fatos Qerimaj; art director, Arben Basha. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (East of the West), July 10, 2008. (Also in Moscow, Sofia film festivals, 2007 Thessaloniki Film Festival.) Running time: 91 MIN.

With: With: Fadil Hasa, Miola Sitaj, Ola Sadiku, Marko Bitraku, Vangiel Toce, Zeraudin Dokle.

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