Saturday, May 15, 2010

HERE AND THERE, '09 Tribeca winner from Darko Lungulov, opens at last

Robert (David Thornton) -- a dour, depressed and down-on-his-luck musician -- gets involved with a feckless Serbian immigrant in New York (Branislav Trifunovic), who corrals him into a marriage-for-money scheme that takes him to Serbia.  A fish-out-of-water/
curmudgeon-sees-the-light story, HERE AND THERE is also a rom-com-cum-
immigration-fable that -- due to its short running time (80 minutes) and refusal to take itself too seriously -- works pretty well.  Plus, it offers Cyndi Lauper in a couple of scenes and one of her songs on its soundtrack.

Written and directed (his first narrative feature) by Darko Lungulov (shown at right), the movie makes a nice u-turn midway along, which you may expect by that point but appreciate nonetheless because it confounds your earlier expectations.  If the film is finally a little too tepid as its story morphs into something different, it still grows more interesting, even as it becomes a bit predictable.  Yet Lungulov never pushes, and if his subsidiary characters -- Mr Trifunovic, for instance, and his dealings with an Hispanic sleazebag (Antone Pagan) -- smack more of convenience than believability, it is all handled with a light touch.

What Here and There manages quite cleverly is to turn the tables on the old, coming-to-America theme.  It's Thorton (above) who turns out to be the immigrant throughout much of the movie, and he is welcomed in Serbia far more than are Serbs (or most other "foreigners") here in the USA.  Creativity, too (in this case music), is given its due, as Robert begins to relax, loosen up and get back in touch with his art.  The wonderful actress Mirjana Karanovic (shown below, from Fräulein, Grbavica, Witnesses, Cabaret Balkan, Underground) is a enormous help to the movie, grounding it with her quiet presence.  So full of feeling, wisdom and sexuality is Karanovic, no wonder this deeply appealing actress works consistently.

At last year's Tribeca Film Fest (2009), Lungulov's film won the Best New York Narrative Award and then promptly disappeared from view, so it's nice to have it back in sight. If only to see the gradual opening up of Thorton's angry character (when he finally smiles, it's like the world's first sunrise), the movie is worth a look.

Here and There opened yesterday, May 14, in NYC at the Quad Cinema, where it will play for one week, before opening in Los Angeles on May 21 at the Laemmle Music Hall.


CriticNYC said...

This balanced and somehow entirely trustworthy review and the beautifully illustrated others on your front page are a remarkable, possibly uniquely good example of how to write movie reviews. Among the qualities that make them very good are attention to every aspect, mild rather than vehement mention of flaws and those always set amid general appreciation of the good qualities also perceived and pointed out (even if they have to be references to previous works by the same filmmakers!) and in general a sense that the critic does not have any other reason for writing or any axe to grind or even self promotion, just a desire to illuminate the character and quality of the film and describe it in a way which whets one's appetite to see it to whatever extent it deserves the attention, and perhaps even if it may not, since the write ups make the darn thing interesting anyway.

How the author manages to do so much of this so well is one of the mysteries of the new Web reality, where so much seems to be produced by certain people once the chains of commerce and editorial packaging are out of the way.

Bravo James Van Maanen.

James van Maanen, said...

Wow -- thanks, CriticNYC. This is the best comment I have received so far, I think, and I will try to live up to your praise. I may have been a little too vehement in my disdain for the current Loach movie, Looking for Eric. But I usually try to stay away from too much disdain.

And if my words indeed whet your (and others') appetite for seeing the film in question, ah -- that's what I want more than anything else.