Latcho Drom (1993)
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Indeed the film itself is a single "take" of sweeping movement that travels the globe and transitions effortlessly from one rhythmic culture to the next.
Watching this film, one's breath is taken away by the simple beauty in our common connection to music, rhythm and dance. If there is a more deeply spiritual, flowing homage to the sound and movement of gypsy cultures, it has yet to be filmed.
This is because it paints a portrait of a family of peoples, rather than telling a story of individuals. The plot is the story through space (India to Andalucia) and/or/ time (we cannot tell) of a people. There is no need of narration. You get a sense of a joyous people, strongly linked in small communities where social interaction is very important. And a great sense of sadness in parts, at their rejection by society at large.
So it's a paean to Rom culture, very beautifully shot, with a wide spectrum of Rom music, and a sting in the tail which is the oppression these people have faced, and still face.
The importance of music in Romany culture is clearly expressed throughout the film. It is a vital part of every event and an important means of communication. Everything they do is expressed with music. Dance is another important activity. Like Romany music, it is specialized and deeply personal, something they alone know how to do correctly. We are provided glimpses into their everyday activities, but the film is not a detailed study of their lives. Rather, it is a testament to their culture, focusing on the music and dance they have created and which have made them unique.
Mr. Gatlif portrays the nomadic groups in a positive way. However, we also witness the rejection, distrust, and alienation they receive from the non-Romany population. It seems that the culture they have developed over countless generations, and inspired from diverse countries, will fade into oblivion because conventional society has no place for nomadic ways.
The other films in the trilogy are Les Princes (1983) and Gadjo Dilo (1998).
I am somewhat skeptical of this being a pure "documentary". Much of it looks too clean, too scripted. It has no narrative, but still has something about it that feels overly cinematic. Or maybe that is just how good the director is? However, even if this was staged, it is a document of real Roma people, their dances and their music. And that in itself has a great deal of value. I am not aware of any other culture that expresses itself in song quite so much. I suppose one could say Native Americans, but even there, it tends to be more at a ceremony and not really part of the daily life.
Sure, this could have done with a narrator and additional info on the Romany, but Gatliff dóes tell a certain story, with beautiful imagery and music as the main ingredients, as it moves through time and countries in a very captivating manner. It is certainly more than enough for 'Latcho Drom' to work as a cinematic experience.
9 out of 10.
so, when this movie started, so beautifully with the nomadic Roma of Rajasthan in India, showing their ritualistic singing and dance and everything in their chaotic desert dwelling, i just felt hooked up to keep watching, and that i did until the very last minutes of this truly great documentary.
i have to admit i had not been impressed by any movie for a long time indeed. well worth the time spent and i'm sure i'll be able to watch this movie again and again once in a while in future ...
this will be a great piece of evidence to keep for anyone as a historical document portraying a much ignored (albeit admired-by-some) tribe's life ...
However, the viewer was not guided enough. A more in depth history of the Rom people would have been nice. Only a fraction of the of the spoken words were given English subtitles. In addition, more explanations about the settings and who was their and some of their challenges would have been appreciated too. It would have helped if there were a narrator too explain about customs, dress and music.