Black Cat, White Cat (1998)


Crna macka, beli macor

Yugoslavia; Emir Kusturica

Parental Guidance – Drug Use; Mild Violence; Crude Humor and Language

On the banks of the Danube, small-time hood Matko (Bajram Severdzan) is striving to hit big despite his inept sense of business. Though, Matko does have an ace in his sleeve: he is acquainted with two of the big shots of the gypsy mafia, who could provide him with plenty of cash. Grga Pitic (Sabri Sulejmani), a good friend of his ailing father, accepts to give him the necessary funds for a “fabulous” coup, but Dadan (Srdjan Todorovic), a strident and debauched nouveau riche, is decided to play the game by his own rules…and at the expense of the naïve Matko. Eventually, Matko finds himself forced to accept a convenience wedding for his son Zare (Florijan Ajdini). But, as always in the Balkans, things get messy.

This bewildering comedic bomb from a country whose irrepressible appetite for life seems to have resisted some of the most appalling horrors in recent memory has been described as Felliniesque. It could easily be so, but however it is hard to extricate any particular influence. Leaving all scholarly exegeses aside, Black Cat White Cat is one of the most frantic and electrifying comedies. Even if you’ve been warned, you may duly expect more than a few surprises.

The plot is a tangle of scams and swindles that opposes three very different breeds of gagsters: Matko is a small-time naïve charlatan; Grga a traditional patriarch, a “godfather” reigning over his clan with an iron fist while fancying himself the last barrage against modern decadence; Dadan is an outlandish, strident incarnation of the aforementioned modern decadence. Black Cat, White Cat often plays as a spoof caper, with multiple twists and burst of frantic action. Maybe predictably, the well-oiled machinery of the criminal lords is hindered by an irritating snag: the desire of the youngsters to experience true love, far from their fathers’ wheeling and dealing.

Indeed, love does get the upper hand as in any respectable comedy, but this generation clash has a bitter-sweet aftertaste. What will advent of the youngsters? Will they follow their fathers’ path and ultimately forget what it is like to be in love? Will they have the strength to be the founders of a new world, like Noah after the Flood? 

Boasting memorable characters, punchy and witty one-liners ("Brother, if you can't solve a problem with money... solve it with a lot of money.") and, above all, a bubbling, contagious verve, Black Cat White Cat is worth losing oneself with gusto into the intricate, intoxicating comedic world it built.  

Black cat white cat poster 1

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