hosted the first FIFA World Cup in 1930. It was a full sixty-five years before
Sepp Blatter joined the international sports organization, but the fix was
still in, nonetheless. The Yugoslavian National Team will bear the brunt of the
tournament’s dubious officiating, but they will make history just the same in Dragan
Bjelogrlić’s See You in Montevideo (trailer here), which Serbia has selected
as their official foreign language submission for the upcoming Academy Awards.
was not easy getting to Uruguay. It took an entire film (Bjelogrlić’s Montevideo: Taste of a Dream, submitted
in 2011) for poor earnest Aleksandar “Tirke” Tirnanić and roguish Blagoje “Moša”
Marjanović to unite their team and win the honor of representing Yugoslavia at
the World Cup. The transatlantic passage was no picnic either, entailing much
seasickness. Even when they arrive, the Yugoslavian team still can’t get any
respect. Expected to go one-and-out, they are booked in a divey hotel, while
the rest of the field will stay at palatial resort. Nobody gives them a puncher’s
chance when they draw Brazil in the first round, but since they face-off
halfway through the film, it might be safe to assume they have an upset in
them. However, impartial officiating goes out the window when Yugoslavia is
matched up with the host nation in the semis.
National Team’s 1930 run is still the best international showing for both
Yugoslavian and Serbian football-soccer to date and it is a pretty good sports
story. However, two films both clocking in with a running length of about two
and a half hours hardly seems economical. Frankly, each could have easily come
in under ninety minutes, but they love the all Serbian 1930 Yugoslavian team in
Serbia, so Bjelogrlić takes his time.
time around, Bjelogrlić and his co-writers Ranko Božić and Dimitrije Vojnov prospect
for more laughs and pile on the subplots. Sometimes they do not make much sense,
like that featuring the game Armand Assante as Hotchkins, an American looking
to sign players for some sort of American soccer tour, which would have gone
over like a lead balloon in depression-era America. However, Tirnanić’s romance
with Dolores, a Uruguayan beauty, is rather sweet and appealing, even if her
lunatic brother’s subplot to the subplot is way too over-the-top.
Petar Strugar convincingly transitions Marjanović from dashing cad to
world-weary sportsman. Assante chews scenery like he hasn’t eaten since American Gangster. It is a
head-shakingly odd performance, but strangely enjoyable. Elena Martínez
generates plenty of heat as Dolores and forges some respectable screen
chemistry with Miloš Biković’s otherwise plodding Tirnanić. However, Branko Đurić
is defiantly shticky and manipulative as Paco, a Croatian expat who befriends
Mali Stanjoe, the team’s young Dickensian mascot.
the most striking aspect of the second Montevideo
installment is the nostalgia for Yugoslavian identity. While the previous film
often expressed pride in the team’s Serbianess, the players explicitly demand
respect for Yugoslavia this time around. Despite the weirdness of Assante’s
Hotchkins, the film also portrays the American team in a consistently favorable
light, suggesting they were good sports, much like Jackson Scholtz in Chariots of Fire. In fact, the
conclusion serves as a cool example of sportsmanship and old fashioned love of
there is even more to the team’s story that was chronicled in a companion
television series. One of the smaller sports networks ought to pick-up the
entire Montevideo franchise, because
the sport is growing in popularity here, but 1930 still represents America’s
peak World Cup performance, so far (just as it does for Yugoslavia and Serbia).
It certainly deserves a wider international audience than the FIFA-bankrolled United Passions. Easily one of the most
accessible films of this year’s foreign language submissions, See You in Montevideo had a special
screening in Los Angeles this Monday, hosted by Deadline’s AwardsLine.
Recommended for sports fans who do not mind a little sentimentality, it will
screen again soon at the 2015 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Labels: Armand Assante, Serbian Cinema, Sports films