MMI Special Report: AFI Film Festival

"Movie Magazine International" Special Report

(Air Date: Week Of 1/1/97)

By Andrea Chase

Pretty Village, Pretty Flame did two things for me. It provided an unflinching look at the extremes of civil war in the former Yugoslavia. It also brought out a wholly unexpected admiration for General Tito. Whatever his shortcomings may have been, he kept a lid on madness going back at the very least to the early Pleicestocene. No mean feat that.

Make no mistake, this is a violent film, but there's no other way to tell a story like this honestly. The violence, though, and this is where the film really gets it right, is channeled into the horror of what people do to one another and to themselves when caught up in events beyond their control or even comprehension. There's no need for Peckinpaw- esque orgies of gore. Machine gunnings, and there are plenty to go around, are depicted with the lightest of squibs and the most timid sprinklings of blood. The urine-drinking sequence on the other hand, packs an enormous whallop.

O, and did I mention that it's wildly funny? Trust me, people that are slaughtering and being slaughtered by their childhood chums need laughs much more than the rest of us. Hence, they're far more adept at finding them. Sharper than a serpent's tooth, the black humor erupts like so much acne vulgaris on the smooth brow of a troubled adolescent. It doesn't so much soften the world turned upside down, as throw it into bolder relief.

For a kinder, gentler meditation on life and death, there's Dying to Go Home, a comedy about one man's adventure of a lifetime that doesn't begin until after he dies. At the outset our hero, Pedro, a Portuguese no longer living in the Netherlands discovers, alas, too late, that being buried in foreign soil means no resting in peace. Eternity without a catnap is no prospect to taken lying down. So, every bit as adventurous in death as he was in life, he sets about putting things right, discovering possibilities inherent in the afterlife that even old hands at being dead never suspected. In the process, he not only solves his own problems, but those of the people he left behind as well.

I loved the sweet but never saccharine humor. And it's hard to argue with the films conclusion that home is where the heart is, not necessarily where the tombstone stands.

As of the last week of December, neither film has a firm deal for distribution in the U.S., but serious negotiation are currently underway. Further, Pretty Village, Pretty Flame is an official entry for Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Language film, so keep your eye out for them both at your local cinema.

Copyright 1997 Andrea Chase

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