J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Frameline 39: Love Island

It’s like the Love Boat or Fantasy Island, except this Adriatic resort caters to a dumber, hornier clientele. Naturally, it is the perfect spot for a precariously pregnant woman to chill out for a week or two, until she runs into her former lesbian lover. Things get very triangular in Jasmila Žbanić’s Love Island (trailer here), which screens during this year’s Frameline in San Francisco.

Island is your basic shticky LGBTQ-friendly farce, but it is notable for the people involved. Believe it or not, it was directed by Žbanić, whose last film was the dramatized documentary For Those Who Can Tell No Tales, about an Australian performance artist’s investigation of the war crimes that were perpetrated at a hotel she unwittingly stayed  in. It stars Ermin Bravo, who previously appeared in Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey as well as Danis Tanović’s short film Baggage and his feature Cirkus Columbia, alongside Ariane Labed (best known for demanding Greek films like Alps and The Capsule) and Ada Condeescu (who didn’t get much opportunity for comedy in Romanian New Wave films, such as Loverboy and If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle). Yet here they all are, determined to distract us with sweet nothings.

In a way, it is a rather happy development to see a Bosnian film going for crowd-pleasing laughs rather than cathartically analyzing the war’s lingering wounds once more. Perhaps it represents a healthy corner turned, but there is still the film to deal with and it’s a mugging, shameless parade of clichés.

Poor Grebo is an amiable working class buffoon who is indeed taking his mega-preggers French wife Liliane on their long planned Croatian vacation, even though we can tell from one look she will be delivering late in the third act. The schlubby former rocker still fancies himself a ladies man, so he briefly entertains thoughts of some side action with Flora, the scuba instructor with the hot bod. Turns out Flora has different ideas. She wants to win back her former lover, Liliane. Grebo will need some help to stay in contention, finding an ally in the resort’s cover band vocalist, Stipica, who inexplicably fancies the lug himself. Oh, the complications. Where’s Gopher and Isaac when we need them?

Love Island was a crowd pleaser at this year’s Bosnian-Herzegovinian Film Festival. Perhaps it is gratifying for its domestic audience to see Balkan characters making love rather than war. If they enjoy it, more power to them, but for regular festival-going cineastes, it is kind of embarrassing. For cult film fans, it is particularly painful to see Franco Nero ham it up as the island’s old Casanova (Django, No!). Those looking for a sugary, fun-in-the-sun rom-com will get more entertainment out of the admittedly shallow Walking on Sunshine, now available on VOD. For patrons of Bosnian and Croatian cinema who want to see it for themselves, Love Island screens this Tuesday (6/23) and Thursday (6/25) as part of Frameline 39 in San Francisco.

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