2019 - September

by mdjedovic | created - 4 months ago | updated - 3 months ago | Public


01. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) 3.5/4 02. Delirium Tremens (2019) 3.5/4

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1. Delirijum tremens (2019)

112 min | Comedy, Drama

Dagi is a famous actor, but a heavy drinker. At one point his condition becomes critical and he ends up in the hospital where he is diagnosed with delirium tremens. Having lost sensation in... See full summary »

Director: Goran Markovic | Stars: Tihomir Stanic, Gorica Popovic, Anita Mancic, Igor Djordjevic

Votes: 169

Dagi (Tihomir Stanic) is a lauded and famously workaholic actor. He is starring in over 20 plays, has a role in a weekly TV show, and is making a film on the side. Dagi is also a well-known alcoholic. When we first meet him he is asleep in the theatre bar prostrate on the chequered-clothe-covered table and irresponsive to the distressed attempts to awake him by the bar's waiters. Finally, they simply carry him out like a piece of old furniture and place him onto a park bench from which he duly falls off straight onto his face. When the police eventually manage to drag him back home, his long-suffering wife Beba (Gorica Popovic) refuses to allow him in until she is practically forced to by the policemen. She washes the delirious and ranting Dagi and places him to bed where he remains for a very short time as he has a rehearsal in the morning, a TV shoot in the afternoon, and a date with his ambitious mistress (Nada Sargin) in the evening. By the time he's back home he's drunk again and barely able to stand up. These scenes, whilst humorous, betray a certain routineness to them which tells us this has happens every night and the characters are well used to it. It also betrays their seeming disinterest in resolving or understanding the situation. Why is Dagi the way he is? The fact that seemingly no one knows is what sets the stage for "Delirium Tremens", the latest dramedy from Goran Markovic, the last remaining great of Yugoslav cinema who never seems to disappoint. Like his previous film, the irresistibly charming asylum drama "A Stowaway on the Ship of Fools", "Delirium Tremens" is a condensed, theatrical version of a mini-series, but unlike "Stowaway", "Delirium Tremens" functions perfectly and seamlessly well in its movie-form. I have not seen the mini-series yet but I doubt anything of substance has been left out.

The plot kicks in when Dagi suffers an alcohol-related mental breakdown known as delirium tremens, which leaves him paralysed and unstable. Hospitalised, Dagi finds himself sharing a room with three other neurotic patients, the shy stutterer Dusan (Igor Djordjevic), the silent Krsta (Dragan Petrovic), and the limping Djemail (Bereda Reshit) who finding themselves in the company of a famous actor all decide to become actors begging Dagi to give them lessons. These lessons help Dagi overcome the worst side-effects of his illness but the underlying cause remains and a relapse seems inevitable until a British-educated psychotherapist Liza (Anita Mancic) shows up with her new and groundbreaking methods known as psychodrama which force the patients to enact that which troubles them the most. Dagi, at first reluctant to join in, eventually manages to face his fears and get to the bottom of his problem.

What is Dagi's problem exactly? Well, it's acting. And herein lies the most fascinating aspect of "Delirium Tremens" which examines the acting-bug as a sort of disease, contracted in youth, which, like a kind of diabetes, dehydrates the soul of the sufferer, gripping them tighter and tighter until they have no choice but to implode. These observations stem from the personal experiences of the excellent Yugoslav character actor Predrag Ejdus whose life story this film was based on. Like Dagi he was a hopeless workaholic and like Dagi he was a hopeless alcoholic who suffered from delirium tremens and was eventually cured. This lends the film a deeply understanding kind of authenticity and separates it from all the numerous more shallow and less observant analyses of the acting-bug, a subject which Goran Markovic, the son of two famous theatre actors and a highly acclaimed director himself was absolutely born to essay. In his unique style "Delirium Tremens" is a seamless mixture of character drama and black comedy both of which work spectacularly well. The drama, initially centred around the problem of acting, eventually transcends its topic and becomes a universal metaphor for all those little demons who sit on our shoulders and have us by the throat, and the comedy carefully dosed and brilliantly executed (especially by the irresistible Djodjevic-Petrovic-Reshit trio).

Where "Delirium Tremens" does slightly suffer is in the actual psychodrama scenes which betray the film's theatrical origins (it is based on Markovic's same-titled 2005 play) and are curiously static, especially after Dagi's lively drunken antics and the hilarious "acting classes" which he gives his fellow patients. However, they are carried (though haltingly) by the film's intriguing central premise and superb performance from Anita Mancic and Tihomir Stanic. Speaking of Stanic, this illustrious actor has never been better. Convincingly hiding Dagi's inner pain behind a mask of hardened cynicism he manages to be both effortlessly likeable and irritating at the same time while building a picture of an utterly convincing human being. Dagi is, without a doubt, the film's only clearly drawn character. While I understand why the three patients remain caricatures, they are, after all, the comic relief, I do wish that the other people in Dagi's life, such as his wife and son, and his colleagues all of whom march through the film, were more convincingly explored.

And yet, it is hard not to admire "Delirium Tremens" both for its fantastic premise and the terrific efforts from the cast and the ever-reliable maestro Markovic who ends this film with an unforgettable and utterly suitable theatrical climax which has left me thinking even now, weeks after seeing the film. That is powerful stuff, the kind we don't get to see every week in contemporary Serbian cinema.


2. Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood (2019)

R | 161 min | Comedy, Drama

83 Metascore

A faded television actor and his stunt double strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969 Los Angeles.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Emile Hirsch

Votes: 387,444 | Gross: $135.37M


"Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is not at all what you'd expect from "a film written & directed by Quentin Tarantino". Contrary to its trailers which promised a sensational tribute to the glorious style of the swinging 60s full of Tarantino-dialogue, gags, and violence, Tarantino has delivered a much quieter, thoughtful picture which for the first time in his career puts substance over style. Don't get me wrong, I have always been fully on board with Tarantino's particular brand of "cinema of cool". His Godardesque experimentations with form, lightning-fast dialogue, and bullheadedly stubborn insistence on being as self-indulgent as possible have always held an undeniably appealing charm for me. From his revolutionary and deeply engaging "Reservoir Dogs", "Pulp Fiction", "Jackie Brown" trilogy of thrillers to his most recent series of homages which often feel more like the wet dreams of a movie fanatic then something you would actually be able to watch in a movie theatre I have always been an ardent supporter of Mr Tarantino and always looked forward to his films with more glee than any to any other filmmaker's. No, I am not criticising his past films by praising "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" for not being like them. I am, however, praising Tarantino for finally finding the courage to emerge from his own self-imposed prison of style to deliver something which seems truly heartfelt and not in the least bit cynical. Unlike in, say, "Inglorious Basterds" or "Django Unchained" in which all other elements were subordinated to the pursuit of emulating a feel, genre, look, style... in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" it is the style of the 60s and the seemingly neverending cavalcade of film and TV references which merely help build the world in which our characters exist. They are the centerpoint of this film and its raison d'être. This is what makes "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood", a film which promised to be the most 'homagey' of all Tarantino films, stand out the most in its director's oeuvre.

The film portrays three days in the lives of three characters as they drive around Hollywood, watch movies, make movies, fight, joke around, and inadvertently stumble into all kinds of situations. There is no true plot in the formal sense of the word here. It is rather a series of episodes, slice-of-life moments, combined seamlessly by the very small geographic frame within which they occur. The first of the three characters we follow is Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a former TV star who gave up a leading role in a hit western to pursue a movie career which never quite came to be. Relegated to guest star spots as the villain-of-the-week on various TV shows headlined by fresher, younger, better-looking faces, Rick finds himself questioning not only his talents and good fortunes but also confronting the reality that his Hollywood dream may be crumbling beneath his own feet. While Dalton may at first seem like your typical dime-a-dozen shallow Hollywood wash-out, crying for his glory days in a car park and drinking himself into oblivion, Tarantino slowly and carefully subverts our expectations by building him up into a truly sympathetic character with hidden depths. Take for instance his relationship with his best-friend/stuntman Cliff (Brad Pitt). When we first meet them, Cliff is chauffering Rick around before he is ordered to go and fix the aerial on Rick's roof. It is easy to assume that Rick is merely using Cliff as his gopher, but it becomes evident, as the film progresses, that their relationship is a genuine friendship and that the two men really love each other even if they're unable to show it for their own differing reasons. Another example of the way the Rick Dalton character subverts initial expectations is that we first meet him weeping out of what we assume is pure vanity over the seemingly inevitable end of his career. It is not until much later in the film, in a touching monologue delivered to a precocious little girl (Julia Butters) that Rick manages to eloquently express his pain over not being "the best" anymore. And yet, in a final subversion, Rick manages to make his anger work for him and manages to give a performance which makes even his most suspicious colleagues declare that it is the best performance they've ever seen.

The second character of the film is Rick's aforementioned stuntman, Cliff, a quiet stoic character who seems like the kind of guy you need by your side whenever the proverbial you-know-what hits the cooling device of your choice. Our expectations of Cliff are, however, subverted in a different manner than those we have of Rick. A character whose silence at first may seem enigmatic or hiding a darker, more complex side turns out to be far simpler than we or the characters in the film seem to think. All throughout the film the death of Cliff's wife (Rebecca Gayheart) for which Cliff was arrested but "got away with" is brought up whenever Cliff shows up at a movie set. At first, it lends him a further scent of mystery until Tarantino shows us the downright banal series of events that led to the accident in which she lost her life and with a single masterstroke reveals Cliff for what he is: a very down-to-earth, simple guy who sees things for what they are. He cares deeply for his friend, bears no ill will towards him, will help anyone out in need without a second thought but will equally call out anyone who lies or emptily boasts in front of him. Cliff proves to be a perfect foil for the complex and multi-layered Rick by being simply what he is, an easy-going guy with a dog who loves his job.

The third lead character, unlike the gritty and utterly real Rick and Cliff, exists here less in a physical and more in a metaphorical way. She is the actress Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) whom Tarantino uses as a constant reminder of the darkness lurking beneath the humour and the style and who symbolises the innocence murdered that Friday night in 1969. The most ingenious thing he does in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is allowing Tate to be present naturally throughout the film in all her sweetness and kindness like the soul of the 60s at constant intervals so we never for once take our minds off of what is coming giving the entire film a certain air of melancholy, making it a unique elegy for a future lost. And yet Tarantino is far too good a writer to allow Tate to remain merely a metaphoric cypher. He gives her one of the finest "episodes" in the film in which she cannot help but go watch herself on the big screen of an inner-city movie theatre starring in the now-forgotten 1969 spy caper "The Wrecking Crew". She sits in the front seat of the movie theatre, soaking in the appreciative laughter and applause of the unsuspecting audience with a broad, proud smile on her face. She says nothing in this scene but Robbie tells us all we need to know about her character through that enchanting smile which betrays not a hint of narcissism but rather child-like joy at the realisation of her Hollywood dream. Seeing herself there on the big screen makes her nothing but justifiably proud and elated to be making all these people happy for at least the two hours during which the movie lasts.

The disparate stories of these three characters are tied together by the constant, lurking presence of the Manson family, the hippie cult which suddenly and without warning murdered the free 1960s and heralded an age of cynicism and depression. In "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" they are portrayed in a downright horror fashion, chanting in the background, moving in packs, lurking in the back-alleys. Like all the best monsters they remain largely hidden throughout the film and are not fully revealed until well past the midpoint of the film when Cliff stumbles onto their ranch following the seemingly innocent Manson acolyte Pussycat (Margaret Qualley). This sequence, which sees Cliff forcing himself straight into the cult's hot-zone, a house where he suspects his old friend lies dead, is definitely the most menacing and suspenseful of Tarantino's entire career and certainly the most effective I've seen at the movies in the past few years. The subtly increasing unease, the eery atmosphere, and the nature of the cultists who, at the drop of a needle, turn from friendly free-living hippies into empty-eyed pod people, are handled with the same deft and ease which gave Hitchcock the moniker of the master of suspense.

So, with all these elements thrown in, the obvious question is "does it all hang together". Well, yes it does. And surprisingly well as a matter-of-fact. By downplaying his usual theatrics and style, Tarantino here reveals himself as the master storyteller he's always been. In any lesser hands "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" would have broken apart from the word go and Tarantino yet seemingly without breaking a sweat holds all these plot strands together and unites them into a single purpose: to bring these characters and their world to life. In this, he succeeds spectacularly. With not a minute of its 161-minute runtime wasted, Tarantino truly allows us not only to understand and see these characters and their world for what they are, but he allows us to live with them in it. Throughout "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" I never felt like I was watching a movie, but rather like I was living in these moments with the characters. While to some the countless driving montages, scenes which don't advance the plot, and brief mundane exchanges between characters may seem like flab to less sophisticated viewers, they are in fact the irreplaceable moments which allow us to become immersed into the film and it is the minutea of its character's lives that bring them truly to life.

The performances, too, are nothing short of excellent. Leonardo DiCaprio, as always, is a witty presence, bringing that deep emotional vulnerability and a loveable sense of longing which made him a star. Margot Robbie is better than ever in a near-silent part bringing Sharon Tate back to life using only her face and undeniably magnetic screen presence. It is, however, Brad Pitt who wows the most with his easy charisma, making the simple, quietly witty stuntman Cliff a tangible character whom we feel for not only as a likeable character but also as a human being we'd like to (and conceivably could) befriend. It is, in my opinion, his finest performance to date which is saying a lot. The rest of the cast is also reliably good. The Manson family actors are suitably creepy with a surprisingly chilling turn from Dakota Fanning as a special surprise. Timothy Olyphant is also excellent as the new leading man of a western show Rick is guest-starring on trying to be gracious whilst utterly blind to his fellow actor's pain and, in the same sequence, Julia Butters manages to squeeze out every drop of humour out of the otherwise cliched character of a precocious child. As far as the other celebrity revivalists go Damian Lewis is utterly convincing as Steve McQueen, Nicholas Hammond is hilarious as the overly enthusiastic Sam Wannamaker, whilst Rafal Zawierucha fails to evoke the easy-going charm and vulnerable intelligence of Roman Polanski. On a technical level, I was left floored by Robert Richardson's cinematography who completely convincingly evokes the look of 1960s Hollywood films complete with that soft, light hue overlay making the image look suitably dreamlike. He once again confirms my stance that he is the best American cinematographer working today. Of course, it is needless to say that the jukebox soundtrack is fabulous as well. In a Tarantino film, that is a given.

In short (too late!), "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" is a masterfully executed and surprisingly low-key turn from Quentin Tarantino. A charming and engaging character piece which is both funny and striking and ultimately sad in a way only a film about lost potential can be. While it may not be Tarantino's best film ("Reservoir Dogs" still holds that title in my mind), it is his most mature and most sincere.


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