Gadjo Dilo

Sep 30, 1998 at 12:00 am

Maybe it's the music. Maybe the dizzying steps of the dance -- feet barely touching the ground, faster and faster, in an explosion of childish happiness. Maybe it's the women who talk dirty and scrub their skin with wild flowers, and sing songs of utter desolation. Maybe it's the freedom, the uninhibited pleasure the gypsies take in everything they do, the passion. Whatever the reason, Gadjo Dilo ("Crazy Stranger") will get to you.

Maybe not at first. Not during the solitary, frozen shots which show Stéphane (Romain Duris) pacing up and down the road in the middle of snowy nowhere. Maybe not when the camera registers, without contempt, the young Parisian's disheveled appearance, his worn-out shoes, his frustration. But later on, as he learns how to live with the gypsies, you will feel a warm, tickling sensation somewhere in the region of your heart, and know that you too are part of this strange and excellent adventure.

The third and final film in his gypsy trilogy, Tony Gatlif's Gadjo Dilo tells the story of young Stéphane who searches the Romanian villages for the favorite singer of his deceased father. He has a recording of her voice, which he plays for anyone who cares to listen; he doesn't speak the language; he's lost; he's cold; he's hungry. That's when Izidor (Isidor Serban), claiming to recognize the voice on the tape, takes him home. But home is where the gypsies are, and Stéphane soon finds himself fascinated by their culture, intrigued by their habits, seduced by their women. Sabina (Rona Hartner), the beautiful dancer who's left her husband for other men, chooses him as her lover.

As he spends himself in passionate encounters, Stéphane learns to live with the loss (of his father, of the singer, of their memory), and love this never-never land where history reveals its preference for violent behavior. And when the last flicker of light has left the screen, you know it must have been the music that pulled you in. Or the dizzying steps of the dance. Or the women.

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