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.