(director/writer: Aleksandar Petrovic; cinematographer: Tomislav Pinter; editor: Mirjana Mitic; music: Aleksandar Petrovic; cast: Bekim Fehmiu (Bora), Olivera Vuco (Lence), Bata Zivojinovic (Mirta), Gordana Jovanovic (Tisa), Mija Aleksic (Father Pavle), Rahela Ferari (nun), Milivoje Djordjevic (Sandor); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; Delta PAL format; 1967-Yugoslavia-in Serbian/Romany with English subtitles)

“Filled with gypsy atmosphere.”

Reviewed by Dennis SchwartzA film about gypsy life in the rural village of Sombor, outside of Belgrade, that’s energetically written and directed by Aleksandar Petrovic (“Three”/”It Rains in my Village”/”The Master and Margaret”). Ironically none of the gypsies are likable or happy, but the authentic gypsy music is lively and it’s a rare film done in the gypsy speak of Romany. Filled with gypsy atmosphere and colorful characters, it shows the gypsies mostly in the worst light as they trade by skillfully bartering, shamelessly cavort with women, gamble, excessively drink and get into fatal knife fights. It won the Foreign Film Oscar in 1967 and the Special Jury Prize at Cannes.

Bora (Bekim Fehmiu, Yugoslavian leading man) is a flighty and volatile traveling wheeler-dealer goose feather seller, operating his business out of the impoverished gypsy village of Vrsac, where he is married to the long-suffering aging cabaret singer Lence (Olivera Vuco). Their children are scattered all over Yugoslavia. The story centers around Bora attracted to the illiterate goose caretaker 16-year-old aspiring singer Tisa (Gordana Jovanovic), whose lecherous stepfather is Mirta (Bata Zivojinovic). He’s Bora’s rival goose feather seller, who made an arrangement with him to divide up the nearby gypsy villages with each getting ten territories to operate exclusively in. Mirta arranges for Tisa to marry a 12-year-old gypsy boy according to custom, but when he fails to perform his marriage duties she unceremoniously dumps him while both families stand outside their shack. After that futility she runs away and gets into a series of misadventures, one worse than the other and ends up back in Mirta’s clutches after seduced and beaten by truck drivers she hitched a ride with. An angry Bora, who married Tisa with a priest on one of her attempts to escape the village, gets into a knife fight with Mirta in his shed, where he keeps the goose feathers, and kills him. It ends with Bora on the run from the police, who come to look for him in the gypsy village but get no help from the locals.

It’s a film that takes the viewer who is not a gypsy into a foreign world that is ugly, dangerous, and ignorant, but also shows there’s a real community among the gypsies and it’s a traditional world where they do not easily let outsiders in. Therefore the value of the film is mostly because it shows us an alien culture rarely seen, keeps things authentic and spicy (even if not nice), and flashes on occasion a wicked black humor. It should be noted the production values are not good and neither is the stiff acting, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying such an odd spectacle.