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Film review: 'Gadjo Dilo'

Film review: 'Gadjo Dilo'
The final installment of director Tony Gatlif's so-called "Gypsy Trilogy" ("Les Princes", "Latcho Drom"), "Gadjo Dilo" is the kind of atmospheric, rambling delineation of an ethnic culture that goes over very well in film festivals worldwide. Indeed, the picture picked up five awards at the Locarno festival in Switzerland and the Special Jury Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival. Art house audiences, on the other hand, may be less appreciative.

The film is less about plot than it is a celebration of Gypsy culture. It tells the story of Stephane (Romain Duris), a handsome young Frenchman who has arrived in Romania to track down an obscure Gypsy singer whose voice on a cassette had entranced his late father. Wandering in the snowy, barren plains, he encounters elderly musician Izidor (Isidor Serban), who appears to recognize the voice on the tape and takes the young man under his wing and introduces him to his Gypsy community.

Stephane is less than warmly received by the suspicious villagers, who consider him a gadjo dilo, or "crazy outsider." Izidor, however, is warmly protective, treating Stephane as a surrogate for his own son, who has been imprisoned. Helping Stephane overcome his sense of cultural dislocation is Sabina (Rona Hartner), a beautiful exotic dancer who speaks French and whose idea of foreplay is uttering the most profane suggestions with wide-eyed enthusiasm. By the film's end, Stephane has come to embrace his new lifestyle with the zeal of a native.

For those less than fascinated by Gypsy culture, "Gadjo Dilo" can be a long haul, filled with sequences that go on far too long and populated by outlandish characters who are as irritating as they are colorful. Filmmaker Gatlif tends to rely on the exoticism of his subject matter to compensate for the large gaps in his narrative and fills much of the running time with extended sequences featuring the passionate rituals of Gypsy music and dance.

The film is beautifully photographed and edited, however, and bears a stamp of authenticity (Gatlif is himself a Roman Gypsy) that lifts it above the usual wide-eyed cinematic portraits of foreign cultures.


Lions Gate Films

Director-screenwriter: Tony Gatlif

Producer: Doru Mitran

Executive producer: Gut Marignane

Cinematographer: Eric Guichard

Editor: Monique Dartonne

Original score: Tony Gatlif



Stephane: Romain Duris

Sabina: Rona Hartner

Izidor: Isidor Serban

Sami: Ovidiu Balan

Dimitru: Dan Astileanu

Running time -- 97 minutes

No MPAA rating

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