Do You Remember Dolly Bell?

Young pop singer hastens to grow up in the workers' paradise of 60s Yugoslavia. The youthful hero keeps reciting an old self-help mantra (“Every day I'm getting better and better”) and practices hypnosis on rabbits and noncompliant females, but it's clear that his meliorist approach to Marx (paradise willed, in invisible, incremental steps) isn't any more effective than the old revolutionary kind. Emir Kusturica's debut feature (1981) doesn't have the graceful, detailed assurance of his 1985 Cannes festival winner When Father Was Away on Business, and the surreal social comedy has a flatter, grimmer edge: his workers' state is a perpetual shadow world, where progress is measured by the number of years it takes to move into a new apartment or the few inches of flesh a stripper reveals in the light of a miner's lamp (the incremental approach again, though prospects seem hopelessly elusive). There's too much sag for this early effort to succeed, and Kusturica's formal skills still need polishing, but the satirical sensibility is already sharply in place.

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