Sunday, February 17, 2008

Go West

Looking for a movie made in Bosnia-Herzegovina? With lots of blood and guts and religion and tribal savagery and war and death and despair and insanity?

Got just what you’re looking for. It’s called Go West.

Stars Mario Drmac as Kenan and Tarik Filipovic as Milan.

That’s Tarik with the Arab name and therefore no doubt Muslim in real life who plays the Serb and Mario with the romantic Western name who plays the Muslim. Which should tell you something about the cultural orientation and possibly political sympathies of those involved in the film.

Not that anybody would be likely to know that before seeing the movie unless you were Bosniak yourself maybe. In a region where identity politics is a life and death issue, it is not surprising that the first film I’ve ever taken notice of from Bosnia should deal with this topic.

What is definitely surprising, however, is that Kenan and Milan are gay lovers.

Unless you’re really warped and like to see misery portrayed for misery’s sake, don’t go see the movie for the story. These two guys hide out in a Serbian village of people who have just massacred their Muslim neighbors and are lusting for more killing. It’s a movie of human depravity and good people trying their best to keep from being eaten alive. And, since this isn’t Hollywood, don’t expect the bad guys to see the light or get mowed down by good guys with AK-47s in the end.

If you are one of those gay people who like to keep watch over the gradual evolution of a gay conciousness around the world, there is at least this reason to see this very out-of-the-way piece. And the acting is good. You’ll recognize the guy who plays Ljubo, Milan’s father, Rade Serbedzija. He has played a lot of the bad Serb roles in things like 24 and Mission Impossible as well as other down and out types. He’s a well-known singer and musician, has some 125 acting jobs on his resume, and gives you a sense in this film of what it might feel like to be a Serb watching the world fall apart. Actually he’s a Croatian Serb, so he probably doesn’t have to dig very deep to get at some of the life-weariness he portrays so well.

And Serbedzija is not alone. Mirjana Karanovic, a Serbian actress of some renown, it seems, plays a stunning character, the village witch. There’s another story hidden there. Karanovic, from Belgrade, caused a stir by playing in both Croatian and Bosnian movies before, and the sheer presence of such people as these suggests there is much to learn about the struggle by their ilk to maintain (or resuscitate) a sane cross-cultural cross-political union of Yugoslav peoples since the breakup.

And, just possibly (but don’t ask me why), the cameo appearance of Jeanne Moreau, who also served as associate producer, might reel you in.

It’s a rough 97 minutes, so be prepared. Go West came out in 2005 and even today it does not appear on Rotten Tomatoes. Some will say with good reason, considering its misery index. But not a gay historian. Or anybody with an anthropological interest in this tragic part of the world. Or, I think, any serious film buff.

Netflix three stars, in my opinion.

No comments: