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Eric Roberts makes an impressive screen debut as Dave, grandson of the aging King Zharko, who is chosen by him to lead the gypsy clan at his death. Dave's only inclination is to join the American mainstream, but he knows that the mantle of gypsy power cannot be taken lightly or denied. Written by
Peter Maas's book is a non-fiction look at the Gypsy culture, particularly how it has translated into 20th century America. This movie is mostly fiction, although it draws on some of the material in the book.
It's basically a family drama, with a rebellious youth (Eric Roberts) squaring off against his abusive father (Judd Hirsch). I'm not sure if a case can be made for Eric Roberts as a terrific actor, but he doesn't embarrass himself here, and the rest of the cast, Hirsch, Shelley Winters, Susan Sarandon, and Sterling Hayden, is superb. A fascinating look at a culture that may be dissolving into modern life, and a well-paced and acted film that is consistently entertaining.
There's a special treat for jazz fans, as violin giant Stephane Grappelli appears in the movie, along with mandolin player David Grisman, performing a medley composed by Grisman and performed with Grappelli on a live album that has always been one of my favorites. This is the only footage I've seen of Grappelli performing, and while it's limited to a few shots, it's still worth the price of admission.
A DVD release has finally been announced for June 3, 2008.
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