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Super 8 Stories

Posted by martinteller on December 8, 2012

Besides directing films — including two in my top 100 — Emir Kusturica also plays guitar in his 11-piece band, “The No Smoking Orchestra”.  It’s a peculiar style of music, unironically embracing rock ‘n’ roll cliché but fusing it with gypsy folk, jazz, classical and punk.  Besides the traditional rock instrumentation, the combo includes violin, tuba and accordion.  This documentary follows them on a 1999-2000 European tour.

The music is pretty fun, and the band seems to have quite a following, playing for very large and appreciative audiences.  The film, however, is nothing that special.  It’s basically exactly what you’d expect a band-on-the-road profile to be.  There are interviews with the musicians, giving some background on their lives.  The fellas horse around a lot, and get into a couple of mild arguments.  They take publicity photos and shoot a music video.  Joe Strummer voices his appreciation of their music.  There is some mention, and a brief excerpt, of what appears to be a subversive, political TV sketch show that some (all?) of the members were involved with, but not much information is given.  As with many aspects of the film, Kusturica seems to be assuming the viewer has some familiarity with the players.

While the performances are enjoyable (though not on the level of Kaurismaki’s Total Balalaika Show) the in-between stuff is too routine and not very enlightening.  Fleeting references to the political situation in Yugoslavia don’t add much in the way of context, at least not to me.  This is one more for fans of the band than fans of Kusturica as a director.  Rating: Fair (63)


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