Dir. Srdan Karanovic. UK/Serbia, 2003. 97mins.
Film-maker Srdan Karanovic, a star of the golden age in Yugoslav cinema, makes a well-deserved comeback with this gentle, surreal romance. Absent from the screen for too long, he has left so much unsaid in the 12 years he has been absent that it almost seems as if the confines of one film are too narrow to accommodate him. Seven years in the making, with the script occasionally revamped every once in a while to reflect the volatile political conditions at home, his picture is packed with perceptive observations on the present state of his country.
This humanistic portrait of Belgrade today has found an auspicious ear at festivals (including Toronto and Venice) and should draw the attention of Balkan-oriented programmers. That said, the soft central core of the story, which is somewhat overshadowed by all that asides that are constantly thrown in, could limit prospects for large theatrical distribution.
From the very first images, that of an old woman talking to herself and a young man staring absently into thin air, this is clearly a film about the displaced; uprooted refugees who can't go home any more and who dream, for one reason or another, of find their way one day to one of the golden lined havens in the West.
It is also equally clear that this is a film about people who living side by side with the phantoms of the past, phantoms of either the dead or the departed people. Karanovic shows this as fathers, mothers and sweethearts become flesh on screen to comment on every single action that the protagonists carry out place as witnesses who, while figments of the imagination, still interfere in the lives of the present.
The main character, Labud (Alhodzic), a young refugee student in Belgrade, who keeps all his possessions in a plastic bag and sleeps in a disaffected flat with many other refugees like him, is searching for the address of his fiancee, Vida (Djokic), a hairdresser who had emigrated to Chicago. But until he finds her, he is willing to be temporarily consoled. Thus he heads to a dating agency and through them accidentally meets Romana (Bolanca), on her way to join her sister, living now in Sydney, Australia.
Romance should be inevitable but the question is whether the collection of imaginary characters accompanying each one of them and reminding them at every step they take that they are failing their family, their nation and their religion, will ever let them get together, as they should. For, naturally, Labud and Romana come from different ethnic origins, and the figures of the past are not about to condone such a crime.
A large cast of secondary characters, including many who are physically absent from the story but emotionally very much involved in it, is employed to add more dimensions to the large fresco of the city's human landscape. Though Loving Glances is written as a light comedy and it is played as such by the whole company, which includes, next to the three leads, Karanovic's script has its dark edges, harking back again and again to the invisible barriers that prevent these people getting along with each other.
Prod cos: Yodi Movie Craftsman, Film & Music Entertainment
Int'l sales: BV International Pictures, Film & Music Entertainment
Prods: Milko Josipov, Zoran Cvijanovic, Mike Downey, Sam Taylor
Cinematography: Radan Popovic
Ed: Branka Ceperak
Prod des: Goran Joksimovic
Costumes: Sasa Kuljaca
Music: Zoran Simjanovic
Main cast: Senad Alihodzic,Ivana Bolanca, Jelena Djokic, Milena Dravic, Boris Komnenic, Gorica Popovic, Branko Cvejic