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Overall Rating

Awesome: 46.15%
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1 review, 7 user ratings

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Tears for Sale
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by Jay Seaver

"With that title, it's almost got to be a dark comedy. It's a good one."
4 stars

ORIGINAL DIRECTOR'S CUT SCREENED AT THE 2010 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The hackneyed phrase that is often used to describe this movie is "a Serbian 'Amélie'", which I think does it a disservice because, well, I didn't like "Amélie" much at all. Gilliam might be a better comparison; after all, Jeunet's films are basically optimistic, and while Uros Stojanovic's fantasy is far from being a complete downer, there's an unavoidable element of tragedy to it.

It's just after World War I, and in a small Serbian village, there are two sisters. There are a lot of sisters, actually, but almost all the men have died in the latest war. These two sisters are blonde and sweet Ognjenka (Sonja Kolacaric) and brash brunette Mala (Katarina Radivojevic), and they are professional wailers, crying at funerals to emphasize the mourning family's despair. After an accident leads to the death of the last man in the village, they are dispatched to find and bring back more, and to make sure that they come back, a witch casts a spell so that their late grandmother (Olivera Katarina) will haunt them. The sisters do wind up finding two men willing to come with them - Dragoljub (Nenad Jezdic), a human cannonball, and Arsa (Stefan Kapicic), the huckster he works with - but they're such nice guys; at least one couple should just go on to Belgrade!

Though considerably more colorful than many other recent Serbian pictures that have played the festival circuit, it does contain much of the same pessimism - writer Aleksandar Radivojevic's pen also spawned A Serbian Film, after all. The jokes are frequently-pitch black, such as the early bit that tells us that boys are sent off to war as soon as they are taller than their rifles, and the rifles get shorter all the time. This village serves as something of a microcosm of Serbia then and now, ravaged by war with its aftereffects as inescapable as the minefield, originally meant to protect the women, which surrounds the village (According to Radivojevic's Q&A, this is even more pronounced in the original cut which screened at Fantasia; the version that Europacorp released elsewhere in Europe and at festivals is fifteen minutes shorter and all but removes the grandmother, meant to represent how death always hovers near the region). Belgrade becomes not just the capital, but a representation of the rest of Europe and the world - grand, prosperous, almost a fantasy.

Not to say that Tears for Sale is unpleasant; it's funny, sexy, and even sweet. Its sense of humor may be murderously dark at times, but the jokes aren't always grim, though they are generally meticulously staged and executed. There's a grandeur to the way Stojanovic pounds his characters down, and it's a rare minute that doesn't pass without something worth laughing at. Sometimes that means the sisters' sexual encounters; there's a lusty undercurrent throughout the whole movie that naturally offers as much comedy as titillation. The movie also has a fierce belief in love, whether between a man and a woman or within a family; for all the world tries to dump on these people, the movie never loses sight of how this can motivate them to be and do their best.

Sonja Kolacaric and Katarina Radivojevic make for an entertaining comedy team as the sisters. Their characters are broad but appealing. Kolacaric's Ognjenka is the one that it's easy to fall for, timid and always obviously concerned about doing the right thing, but Radivojevic is kind of brilliant as Mala - she's pushy and obnoxious, at times almost a clown as she stomps across the screen, but there's a fierce concern about her sister that can't really be said to come out (it's always there) as much as be revealed as the center of her character. Olivera Katarina is a scene-stealer as their curmudgeonly grandmother, and the cast of women back in the village attack each joke given to them with gusto. It's unusual not just in Serbian cinema, but movies in general, to have a cast so full of women who are both unapologetically sexy but also funny, and these ladies are good. The men are fine, too, with Jezdic and Kapicic giving performances that comfortably parallel Kolacaric's and Radivojevic's.

Stojanovic and his crew put together a very attractive picture - it's often got the look of a fairy tale, albeit one taking place in a run-down kingdom. There's whimsy to be found in almost every scene, and the movie never really slows down, going from fairy tale to musical number to hyper-stylized set pieces. It's a little drawn out at times, and I can understand why the distributor would have wanted to streamline it a little bit. It's a quirky fantasia that at times is not just offering the audience something more than charming eccentricity beyond its eccentric exterior, but pushing it at the audience.

That ambition is worth lauding, and it's a bit unfortunate that the world at large hasn't been able to see all of it. Uros Stojanovic appears to be fairly young, though, so he's got plenty of time to establish himself in the same category as Gilliam and Jeunet if he keeps making films like "Tears for Sale", and that's a category that's always interesting.

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originally posted: 08/28/10 14:44:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/14/10 Gocai Sjajna rezija, scenario, kostimi. Napokon jedan sjajan srpski nerezimski film 5 stars
9/06/10 Kiki Film me je ostavio bez daha. Genijalno! 5 stars
8/29/10 Kermit Crissey Everyone needs to see this film 5 stars
2/07/09 mladen fantastic!!!!! 5 stars
9/12/08 Ira marvelous 5 stars
9/11/08 Dan S. Wonderful visual feel, strong leads, great cinematography, and historically rooted. 4 stars
9/08/08 Jasna Bravo!!! 5 stars
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