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Bonny the lucky cat: looking for a lost pet or hunting for happiness
Danis Tanović, a well deserving Academy Award winner in the category of Foreign Language Film with his very first feature movie, after two respectable international attempts--L'enfer (2005) and Triage (2009)--both dealing with certain universal subjects, geographically located outside the country of his origin (Bosnia and Herzegovina), in his fourth movie comes back home and scores again.
Anyone slightly interested in global politics already knows the sad story of a certain Balkan super state, which was in a "good ol' days" thriving to considerable extent on worldwide--basically, American (and its post WWII interested allies)-Russian (and its willy-nilly 'satellites')--polarization and then, at the end of the Cold War, "allowed" by the same global powers to violently fall apart and dissolve.
Particular time and place provide the setting for Tanović's latest movie, Cirkus Columbia (2010), based on the novel written by Ivica Đikić, telling the story of Divko Buntić (who, in his own self-ironic words, rather than just gone mad, has always been mad), descending from the family on the losing side of WWII, whose uneasy life among privileged descendants of WWII winners forced him to emigrate. He managed to make a good living abroad, but, after 20 years in exile, couldn't wait more to come back.
His chance to return comes at the beginning of 1990's, after decline of previous, rather totalitarian system and opening for democratic changes. Coming back to Herzegovina, to his birthplace where he's spent his childhood and teenage years, he flaunts his wealth, showing off with his expensive car and young wife, willing to get even with whoever might have done him wrong in the past. He immediately dislodges his estranged wife Lucija and his son Martin from the reclaimed property and, initially, it looks like he's winning and that money can fix everything. But, can it really make the world go round? Answer comes later.
Without giving too much away, it is enough to repeat an advice that he gives at the very highpoint of the movie. Offering a big bunch of money to his son, who is following in his father's footsteps, getting ready to emigrate as well, Divko bitterly admits his life lessons learned in a reminder "with this you can buy everything, but you cannot have everything"... Ultimately, in deserted premises of the used-to-be circus from the title line, finally daring to be honest to their true feelings, reunited couple literally makes the world merry-go-round. Against all chaos-approaching odds, at least for a fleeting moment, their world becomes a better place... A moment amplified during the end credits by a beautiful period song "We could've done it all" ("Sve smo mogli mi"), Valerijan ujo's versified lament over the life's oh-so-ephemeral opportunities lost, in Slobodan Kovačević Bodo's atmospheric arrangement, interpreted in a calm, soothing voice of Jadranka Stojaković.
Tanović continues to make interesting movies. For a number of reasons my favourite one is still his first, No Man's Land (2001), certainly not the least being the fact that I'm Danis's former fellow countryman--well, former, because, apparently, we both (temporarily or not?) moved out of the country, after it has been struck by our common, well known tragedy--so I have been either personally, or as a participant in the closest collective experience, through those times and situations described.
On a more impartial level, it is pleasure to notice that, in both his domestically inspired movies equally, Tanović depicts a fluent story about common people, though, eventually, in not so common circumstances, distinguished by standouts in leading roles (here, well established actors Miki Manojlović and Mira Furlan and promising Boris Ler), good work with supporting actors and his skillful direction, that all adds up to (a) very attractive movie(s). Though, it might work well just for viewers who do not look necessarily for bigger-than-life themes, who do not seek only for stories with intriguing details or unexpected twists, ergo unusual narratives that, once "consumed", often lose their attraction, while appeal found in commonness allows for even repeated viewing, almost without any significant loss of interest. ( Davor Blaević, currently in the South of Lebanon.)
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