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The story of an aging group of has-been musicians who attempt a reunion concert has been told many times. But we’ve never seen this story set in Macedonia, which gives Punk’s Not Dead – the official Oscar submission from that country – a certain novelty. Although the premise and some of the details are amusing, the loutish band members aren’t very appealing characters, which guarantees no audience for this film beyond the festival circuit.
Still, even mediocre foreign films offer an intriguing glimpse of unfamiliar parts of the world. In the fractured universe created by the collapse of Communism, we’ve seen several films from Serbia, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, but not many from Macedonia. And probably few Americans are aware of the hostility between Macedonians and Albanians, which supplies part of the drama in this film. The ethnic conflicts that still permeate eastern Europe add a note of danger to the movie’s raucous comedy.
The main character, Mirsa (Jordan Simonov), still lives with his aged mother and pals around aimlessly with some drunken cronies. When a friend suggests a musical gig, they travel the country to round up some of their old band members, add a couple of new musicians, and try to recapture the enthusiasm they felt when they were performing nihilistic punk rock anthems 17 years earlier.
The grungy settings are well caught by director Vladimir Blazevski and cinematographer Dimo Popov. But it’s hard to warm to any of the characters, who are so obsessed with proving their masculinity that they throw around the word “fag” more frequently than enlightened audiences will want to hear. Simonov at least conveys a certain world-weary charm, but his loudmouth cohorts are pretty unpleasant company. Kamka Tocinovski as Mirsa’s sometime girlfriend does exude unforced sensuality, which she gets to display in a number of nude scenes.
The movie builds toward a reunion concert that doesn’t quite play out as the band members hope. It ends in a violent clash, but in fact, there are a number of false endings before this overlong film arrives at its understated, ironic conclusion. No doubt the uncertainty of the characters’ fate is meant to reflect the unsettled nature of life throughout this troubled region.
Production: Pank Film.
Cast: Jordan Simonov, Kamka Tocinovski, Toni Mihajlovski, Flora Dostovska, Kiril Pop Hristov.
Director-screenwriter: Vladimir Blazevski.
Executive producer: Darko Popov.
Director of photography: Dimo Popov.
Production designer: Kiril Spaseski.
Music: Aleksandar Pejovski.
Costume designer: Ilina Angelovska.
Editor: Blagoja Nedelkovski.
No rating, 104 minutes.
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