Adria Blues (Miroslav Mandic, 2013): Slovenia | Croatia| Bosnia | Herzegovina

Reviewed by Daniel Chein. Viewed at SBIFF.

adria blues

Something that I really appreciate about the Santa Barbara International Film Festival programming is its commitment to acquiring films from underrepresented filmmaking communities around the world. With designated series for Jewish (Kolnoa), Latin and Eastern Bloc productions being featured next to films from the US, Western Europe and Asia, audiences have the opportunity to see films from filmmakers that would otherwise remain unheard of. Furthermore, programming a series as opposed to a single film allows viewers to compare different styles produced in the same region, debunking conceptions that all French films are like this or all Indian films are like that.

One film that I found totally hilarious was Adria Blues by Miroslav Mandic. The film is about an old rock star, appropriately named Tony Riff (Senad Basic) who is having trouble reintegrating into society after the Bosnian War. He has lost all interest and creativity in his music, and instead is supported by his wife Sonja (Mojca Funkl) who works as a call-girl to make ends meet. He hates that his wife has to have phone sex with other people, finding it not only disgusting but disgraceful. Sonja finds his remarks hypocritical, as Riff’s only pursuit in life seems to be motivated by tetris. Given this situation, Sonja arranges a tribute show with one of her customers, Maks (Peter Musevski), who was a huge fan of Riff in his heyday. Adria Blues is absurdist humor at its best, and the story unravels through the serendipitous union of the most unlikely individuals, including a a businessman, his mistress and wife, a mafioso, his henchman, and a massage chair salesman.

I tend to find humor that is centered around the irony in and of a situation tasteful. The film’s story arch is like a theorem for Murphy’s Law, which states everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I’ll refrain from divulging the details because I think this film is definitely worth checking out. All I’m able to say is the last shot of the film was a memorable way to tie all the loose ends together.

The director is a character in his own right. Coming to talk to our class, he had certain mannerisms and ideas that when coupled with the film, it all sort of just made sense. But something he said really resonated with me. The film is supposed to be funny, yes, but it is also supposed to raise political issues without being outright political about it. Mandic met many people who were not same after the war. He talked about a friend of his who was a painter- he made incredible paintings that have been displayed in galleries around the world. After the war, he just decided he didn’t want to paint anymore, and gave it all up. And yet somehow Mandic is able to transform something that could be depressing and heavy into something that is funny and light-hearted. Go watch it and have a laugh.

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