Sunday, December 12, 2004

Zafranović (Zafranovic) Returns

Before Severina Vučković (Severina Vuckovic) and her "work of art", the best known collection of motion pictures in the history of Croatia was The Bus Scene from Okupacija u 26 slika, 1978 WW2 drama directed by Lordan Zafranović (Lordan Zafranovic).

For those of you who don't know, The Bus Scene could serve as an excellent argument against all those who complain about too much graphic violence in today's movies and the irreparable psychological damage that could do to the new generations of viewers. The Bus Scene takes place in 1941 Dubrovnik, shortly after Germans and Italians have occupied Yugoslavia and installed Ustasha regime. Ustashas have rounded up city's Serbs, Jews, Communists, anti-Fascist Croats and other undesirables and are taking them for a bus ride during which they are going to demonstrate inventive use of clubs, hammers, knives and similar pieces of hardware. All that is displayed in loving detail and with maximum of realism, thanks to the superb make-up and other special effects that wouldn't be surpassed until the arrival of CGI.

The Bus Scene is the prime example of 1970s as the age when the filmmakers used to pushed new boundaries and enjoyed freedoms that today's generations can only dream of. Some of that pushing, however, proved to be too much not only for the more sensitive audience but also to some of contemporary critics. The film created major controversies and personal feuds that last to this day. It was also the start of Zafranović's life-long obsession with Ustashas – he depicted them in his next two feature and two documentary films.

1990s brought new government and total revision of WW2 history. Zafranović became persona non grata and most of Croatian critics competed in finding new ways to describe him as a man who pathologically hates his country and serves as a tool of Serbian propaganda. It took some years after the end of war for the passions to cool and Zafranović to be seen primary as a filmmaker, rather than a political icon. In past few years some of his films even began to appear on Croatian television stations.

So, the time came for Zafranović to appear again on national television. Again, it was Aleksandar Stanković's (Aleksandar Stankovic's) turn to break the ice in his Nedjeljom u 2 talk show. The conversation was interesting, although Zafranović, a man well-experienced in stage art, managed to evade Stanković's clumsy provocations. One of the more interesting moment of the show was, of course, The Bus Scene, which Stanković used to make some sort of point. Thankfully, The Bus Scene wasn't complete – Stanković aired only the very beginning, without the "good" parts, but that was probably enough for some of the viewers to reconsider having their Sunday lunch.

Potentially the best moment came at the end when Zafranović publicly repeated his offer to Severina to appear in his next project – a musical. Knowing Zafranović's another obsession which became a trademark of his films – graphic sex and nudity – co-operation between the two might result in another great scene of Croatian cinema.


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