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LATCHO DROM (NR)
Shadow Distribution


Director: Tony Gatlif

Producers: Michèle Ray

Written by: Tony Gatlif

Cast: Gypsy Musicians from India, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain

Rating: *** out of 5

"Some evenings, I find myself envying the respect you give your dog." For laments like this, you need to see LATCHO DROM, a tasty but overlong film of gypsy music and dance.

LATCHO DROM ("Safe Journey") is not really fiction, but it's not really a documentary, either. There's really no plot and maybe three lines of dialogue in the whole film; the best thing I can think of to call it is a gypsy musical. The hypnotic movie follows caravans of nomadic gypsy musicians and dancers on their travels. Charming, though obviously staged scenes capture their daily life, often showing some form of persecution. These alternate with absolutely thrilling music and dancing. As they take to the road again, we fade to a different gypsy band traveling in another country.

The film begins in India, and moves generally westward to end with gypsies in Spain. The first family we see travels by foot and primitive cart, but the transitions soon involve boats, horse-drawn cabins, trains, trailers, Winnebagos, and even a car racing video game. As portrayed in LATCHO DROM, gypsies are a perpetually and unjustly persecuted race: "The whole world hates us, we're chased, we're cursed/Condemned to wandering throughout life." Just steal one lousy little nail...

But although there is a morose tone to much of the film ó a particularly sad bit has a battered old woman singing in the snow of the gypsy experience in Auschwitz ó there are also plenty of fun bits. Marvel at women in India who play their drums like nunchuks! Thrill at the Turkish dancers who make their tummies leap all about without moving the rest of their bodies! Fall dizzy at the sight of a girl who can spin non-stop forever! Let your heart be melted by an old Hungarian man teasing notes from a violin with only a thin loop of string for a bow! Join in the frenzy of a whole town as they follow gypsy musicians from their front doors to an outdoor community orchestra! Vibrate in a Spanish alley to the machine-gun taps of furious flamenco feet!

And the music is incredible. It's fun, it's different, I'll buy it from Virgin Records first chance I get. As for the cinematography, it's alien, it's exciting, it's as colorful as it is diverse.

BUT ó and this is a very big BUT ó the movie feels very, very long. It's hypnotizing, but it's also soporific, especially in the second half. There is no story to follow, so unless you're in the mood to be hypnotized, you may find yourself checking your watch often during the second hour.

LATCHO DROM was originally released in 1993. It has evidently accrued enough of a cult following to merit a re-release seven years later, so maybe the whole world does not agree with me about its overlength. And I will give it its due: It's a beautiful and fascinating movie. But the mesmeric spell it casts lasts only so long. It may just be too much for one sitting. Just be prepared to be patient.

-Quin Arbeitman


HYBRID Ratings Guide:

***** Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

**** Itís worth a full-price ticket.

*** Itís worth a matinee ticket.

** Wait for video rental.

* Check out the video from the library, if you must.

0 While I would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...



Mike Doughty



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