Friday, October 28, 2011

Srdjan Spasojevic's A SERBIAN FILM hits DVD and Blu-ray; Netflix decides to pass

Anyone who believes in the concept of karma might easily see A SERBIAN FILM as payback to (and from) the country who gave us the ugly, elongated and unnecessary Serbo-Croatian war of the 1990s. Film-wise (and culture-wise), is this how Serbia wants to be remembered? OK, you got it! Ah, but this might be the simplistic view. Let's instead look for another way to think about this film. You've heard, I imagine, that porn stars are severely taken-advantage-of in terms of career, money earned and status conferred. So think of this movie, written and directed by Srdjan Spasojevic (his first), as a remarkably bracing workout of the idea that porn stars get hopelessly fucked -- literally and metaphorically.

You could also take the film as a severe indictment of Serbia -- familial, political, economic, sexual and cultural.  Or as a fabulous excuse to maximize sex, violence, blood and gore. (To the credit of Mr. Spasojevic -- pictured at right -- there is not a single explosion, car chase or crash to be seen.) So what is A Serbian Film? It's all of the above, the result of which is in no manner the least bit edifying.

This is not to say that the movie is empty of anything good. The lead perfor-mance, in fact, is quite good. It comes from Srdjan Todorovic, in action below, playing the country's leading male porn star, reminiscent of our own John Holmes: a quite unprepossessing type -- until he takes off his pants. Mr. Todorovic proves just fine in that department, too -- at half mast, at least: I suspect the erections that we see are prosthetically enhanced (Mr. Holmes' were the real thing).

The photography, too, is fine (it's just the subject matter that's a downer.) Further, the Blu-ray transfer I watched was absolutely first-rate in terms of sharpness, color, and all the rest. The filmmaker knows his way around believable dialog and his pacing, framing, and clever use of fantasy vs reality all work well. (The cinematography is by Nemanja Jovanov and the editing by newcomer Darko Simic.)

The tale, such as it is, concerns the famous and now retired porn star being called back into action to make some sort of "art/porno" movie for an amount of money so vast that we never actually hear it spoken (he whispers it into the ear of his wife -- who immediately gives him the go-ahead). His producer/director, played with maniacal glee and a bit of smarts by Sergej Trifunovic (above) is soon revealed as a nutcase extraordinaire, and yet our hero never asks for any of that cash upfront. Silly boy. As it flows along and corrodes, the film becomes a kind of mystery as to what happened and why. All will be revealed, and will be every bit as awful as you could have imagined.

The first sex scene actually serves up a smattering of The Parallax View, and the first half of the movie -- which is being marketed, with the help of most critics, as something ground-breakingly over-the-top -- seems, well, not so horrible, after all. Then things get worse. And by worse, I mean that it appears that our filmmaker and his friends sat around in bull sessions, thinking up the very worst things imaginable that could happen to a family man/porn star -- and then wrote them and filmed them.

Consequently, any legitimate, resonant subjects buried within A Serbian Film are finally no more than an excuse for upping the ante on the usual blood, violence, sex and gore plus incest, necrophilia, pedophilia and (so far as I know) the brand new entrant in the envelope-pushing sweepstakes, "newborn porn." Is all this degrading? Yessiree -- to its creators and to us viewers. And certainly to Sony, which company I hope did not pay for the very obvious product placement that comes midway into things.

The movie is finally about as ugly, nasty and cynical as seems humanly possible to grind into 102 minutes (the DVD and Blu-ray offer a lengthier cut that was shown in Britain ). And if this sounds like a recommendation, be my guest.

From Invincible Pictures, the DVD/Blu-ray hit streets this past Tuesday, October 25. With Netflix -- who initially offered the film in its Saved section of your queue -- suddenly deciding not to carry the film, I am uncertain where it can be rented. But I understand that a streaming option is also now available from

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