Black Cat, White Cat

Oct 27, 1999 at 12:00 am

First, run away from home. Once you’ve reached your destination (those fields of gold by the river will do), raise your skirts and jump: The waters – dirty, noisy, restless – are friendly. So are the people.

Remember Gadjo Dilo, the film about another "crazy stranger" lost in the land of the gypsies, intoxicated by the beauty of their songs, prisoner of their moody landscapes? This is you now. Listen to the band. There’s no life outside the music: The band can play anything for anybody. Never mind that the players’ clothes are torn and their hands rough: Their hearts are in the right place.

Now, watch the river. See its waters caress the shores, avoid the sunflower fields, take a turn for the better. Then pan to the right and squeeze inside the frames of those rundown houses, collapsing under thick layers of indifference and other people’s possessions: old mattresses, limp tables, two or three large farm animals, four chickens, one cracked mirror, two lace dresses, a bird cage, the stuffed head of a deer and a block of ice.

Now, try the wine. Have a bite to eat. Let your hair down and taste the freedom. It’s all around you: in the thick air of the evening; in the haunting rhythm of the music which distracts grown men from their duties; in the ice cream cones melting in the hands of those foul-mouthed youths with nothing but love on their minds; in the cunning eyes of the matrons, ready to sell their granddaughters to the highest bidder. Watch their flowery skirts shift and swirl: Once removed, all that’s left behind is dark skin and thick bones and tall tales of magic.

This is the story of Matko and Zare, of Grga and Dadan, of Ida the river nymph. It’s the story of gypsies who live on the banks of the Danube in a world of their own making. It’s a story of fathers and sons, gangsters and cousins, grandfathers who summon death in order to prevent loveless weddings, and youngsters whose only dream is to run away from home.

This is Emir Kusturica’s world: Come in and taste the sweetness.

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