Abandoned by his eccentric wife, a Serbian railway engineer (Stimac) is forced to choose between his conscripted, football-mad son (Vuk Kostic) and the Muslim nurse (Solak) who has become his lover, when an exchange of prisoners is arranged during the Bos
While his latest exercise in absurdist realism marks a welcome return to filmmaking after a six-year sabbatical, Kusturica is somewhat guilty of peddling old ideas, the much-lauded Bosnian director here revisiting several trademark themes. He's also culpable of devoting so much energy to his invigorating set-pieces that he neglects the kind of intellectual rigour that made 1995's Underground such a compelling masterpiece.
Fittingly for a story involving a wannabe soccer star, this is very much a film of two halves. The first sees Luka (Stimac) striving to balance his obsession with bringing tourism to the tiny town of Golobuci with the erratic behaviour of his dotty wife Jadranka (Trivalic) and the ambitions of their self-centred son, Milos (Kostic). The fogbound, floodlit football match and Milos' equally chaotic going-away party are classic Kusturica combinations of madcap black comedy and delirious Gypsy jazz.
However, apart from a delightfully melancholic donkey, there's little to match any of this in the overly elegiac conclusion, as clumsy Shakespearean parallels come to dominate Stimac's romance with nurse Sabaha (Solak) after Jadranka leaves him. Still, with all its off-kilter vitality, even flawed Kusturica remains superior to much of Hollywood's output.
Less effective than the director's past work, but there's no denying that it's packed with life-affirming incident.