Happy Birthday, Emir Kusturica

This Bosnian-born Serbian filmmaker will have my love forever for his film Arizona Dream, his first American film, starring Faye Dunaway, Johnny Depp, Lili Taylor, Jerry Lewis, and Vincent Gallo. I wrote about it for my Film Comment column. The film was butchered for the wider release, and to this day if you want to see the un-edited version (20 minutes were slashed out), you have to resort to bootlegs of the uncut version uploaded to YouTube. I wrote about all that in the piece. His European films get heavy play at festivals, and his films have won the Palme d’Or at Cannes multiple times. Kusturica, a Muslim who converted to Serbian Orthodox Christianity, and who lives in a town that was built for one of his films (you can’t make this shit up), and who continues to refer to himself as “Yugoslav”, is a very controversial figure, most recently because of his vocal support for Putin. Yikes. He attended Putin’s THIRD inauguration. Yikes.

But he’s a major filmmaker and Arizona Dream is a masterpiece, a forgotten and now-butchered masterpiece. It would be so great if this forgotten gem of cinema could get not only a proper restoration, but have those 20 minutes PUT BACK IN. In my piece I go into what was cut – including a monologue that expresses the theme of dreams, which is basically the whole point of the movie. It’s disgraceful. It’s a beautiful film. Look for it on YouTube.

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3 Responses to Happy Birthday, Emir Kusturica

  1. Shawn says:

    The Putin thing! So strange. But the film looks very unique. Sounds like a great recommendation. Thanks!

    • sheila says:

      It’s so good!! Totally dreamy surreal slapstick masterpiece – very “Balkan” in sensibility. Irony, dreamy, slapstick, sharp.

    • sheila says:

      and speaking of the Balkans: when I was in Croatia, one of the guys we hired to take us around mentioned Kusturica at one point – I KEPT asking him about the film culture in Croatia and the whole area in general – and he brought up Kusturica and “claimed” him as Croat. When he is not Croat at all. lol Maybe he was BORN there? Or … lived there at one point? I don’t know. Croatia still claims Marco Polo – the borders shift so often that everyone fights over who belongs to who – and I found it strangely charming that Ante would say “Oh yeah, he’s one of ours.” This is also why wars have a tendency to break out in the region too … so there’s THAT side of things.

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