When Father Was Away on Business | Chicago Reader

When Father Was Away on Business

The surprise winner of the Palme d'Or of the 1985 Cannes film festival, Emir Kusturica's Yugoslavian film is an affectionate social satire, with appealingly gratuitous touches of the lyrical and surreal. Set in the postwar period, just after Tito's break with Stalin, the film is told through the consciousness of a six-year-old boy whose father, a government bureaucrat, has been sent to a labor camp for his alleged Stalinist sympathies. But Kusturica is only superficially interested in political intrigues (and in fact, it turns out that the father has been banished not for ideological reasons, but because he has beaten another official to the arms of a lovely young gym teacher); his real subject is the almost mystical resiliency of the extended family, in spite of the onslaughts of sex and state. Sharply observed yet beguiling, the film is a genuine charmer.

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