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What is it about the Rom (Gypsy) peoples that fascinates me so fully? They are absolutely unleashed in their passions. Sex, grief, play, anger: all are fully felt. They have nothing like our quasi-Puritan, North American restraint, nor a Northern California totally tubular mellow. Whatever the Rom feel, they feel with body and soul--and express with voice, violins, dancing feet, guitar and accordion.
Take Gadjo Dilo. One of my first misgivings was going to be that it would be overacted. With the first wailings and carryings on, my United Stateser's mind went into a sort of uncomfortable retreat (and a simultaneous fascination). But the film saves itself from overacting by not letting up in the slightest: the heavy-handed emotion reigns the entire movie and never flags nor tires. Had any character backed off for an instant, then I'd have seen the entire thing as a big acting mess. But since the passion is seamlessly overblown from start to finish, I can only see these emotional hurricanes as the natural state of being for the Rom people. It is not acting: it's hard-wired.
So hot and infectious was the passion of the heroine, Sabina, that the missus nearly jumped my bones during the love scene halfway through the flick. Her romance with Stephane will remain, I am sure, among my favorite on-screen love affairs; and their tryst is my top, number one favorite movie love scene. Hot!
From Tony Gatlif, the maker of Latcho Drom (that film, a beautiful catalog of Gypsy music from all over Europe and Asia), Gadjo Dilo (Crazy Stranger) tracks a young Frenchman, Stephane, in search of a singer named Nora. His father had loved her voice, and now he is trying to find her. He has a tape recorder with him to sample some of her voice when he does manage to track her down. But it's hard going in Northeastern Europe. It's cold and he doesn't speak the language.
Eventually, he makes it to a small Rom village where an old gypsy man, Izadore, befriends him. The old man is thrilled to have found a young friend, and begins drinking. He shares his bottle with Stephane and doesn't take "no, thanks" for an answer. Soon, they are both crazily drunk and laughing uncontrollably.
In the morning, the village finds the hung-over Frenchman in Izadore's bed, and everyone flies into a panic over the "Gadjo Dilo." When the old man returns, he lectures everyone that Stephane is "his Frenchman," and that he is there to learn the language.
Stephane keeps insisting that he wants to meet Nora, and Izadore keeps vaguely promising that he will. The villagers accept the Gadjo Dilo as an amiable alien and set out to teach him their ways and words. Gradually, a love interest blossoms with the seductive Sabina. Stephane witnesses a funeral, and later, a violent attack on the village by enraged neighbors.
This springs from a subplot about Izadore's son being released from prison. But like an erupting emotion, this subplot comes to the foreground soon enough. However, rather than go much farther into the story, I'd beseech you to rent it for yourself. It's much easier to follow than to describe. Capturing the emotional and human scope of this work is far beyond my capacity as a mere reviewer. The people in the movie are truly beautiful, and the music is too. If you like the music, Latcho Drom is a must-hear as well. And I'd also recommend Mondo, Gatlif's "middle movie," sight unseen.
Have you seen Mondo? What did you think?
In my review of Spalding Gray's work, I misspelled his name like the
ball company. There is no "U" in Mr. Gray's first name. I regret
the error and apologize for any inconvenience my oversight may have caused.
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.