The pre-movie trailer for a noted art-house theater chain revolves around the phrase "The language of film is universal." This is a nice sentiment, but it's kinda we-are-the-world-y; there are many films that, by virtue of being products of another culture, just don't work for an external observer who lacks the necessary background. Maybe they come from a storytelling tradition or reference past ideas we just don't have a background in; maybe they're ornate satires of political concerns where we don't know the players, the game or how points are scored. Or maybe -- and I was thinking this as I watched the Cannes competition selection Promise Me This, written and directed by Emir Kusturica, they're just very, very confusing. Watching Promise Me This -- a mix of fairy-tale elements, crackpot inventions, gunplay and violence and hyper-stylized slapstick, I felt like someone had slipped me four hits of acid and made me watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Sound of Music and The Dirty Dozen -- not in a row, but all at the same time.

High on a hill in Serbia, Tsane (Uros Mlovanovic) lives with Grandfather (Aleksandar Bercek); the only other person for miles around is the teacher (Ljilana Blagojevic). Tsane and Grandfather live in a house fll of Grandfather's wacky contraptions, clockwork devise and spring-loaded wake-up bed-flingers; they love each other a lot. But Grandfather feels like he's dying, so he sends Tsane to the city with a list of objectives: Sell the cow. Buy an icon. And find 'a good and pretty wife.' And so, off Tsane goes, wildly unprepared for his journey. ...

categories Reviews, Cinematical