Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Emir Kusturika's Yugoslavian family drama comes from 1981, years before the murderous civil
wars. As such it looks backward to the 1960s communist rule of Marshall Tito, using a
coming-of-age story to present a picture of life in a drab worker's state.
Dino (Slavko Stimac) is an intelligent teen in the depressed Sarajevo economy, alleviating
boredom and a distinct lack of options by studying hypnosis and dreaming about girls. His
pet rabbit refuses to be hypnotized, but there is something to be said for Dino's daily
mantra: "Every day in every way I'm getting better. "
Listless local party officials offer little but rhetoric, and follow recommendations to
fight teen delinquency by establishing a local Rock 'n Roll band. Dino is at first
uninterested but later becomes the band's lead singer. His older brother, another
girl-crazy young man, plays bass.
In Dino's dysfunctional home life the drunken father holds communist-style meetings at the
kitchen table to air family issues, and then cruelly controls all topics of conversation. A
picnic visit to a favorite uncle is ruined by political arguments and a cloudburst. Dino's
little sister keeps asking when they're going to the seaside, and his little brother just
wants a bicycle.
Dino's personal transformation doesn't begin until he falls in love with Dolly Bell
(Ljiljana Blagojevic), a mysterious young woman put in his care by a local thug who
intends to set her up as a prostitute. Dino hides her in his loft and undergoes a traumatic
sense of loss when he cannot protect her from a gang rape. Later on, when Dino's father
is sick in hospital, the boy finds Dolly stripping in a bar and receiving customers in
her room. He's helpless to do anything for her there, either.
The Yugoslavian Rock 'n Roll turns out to be local and Italian ballads sung to a danceable
beat, and they become an outlet for Dino's frustration. As the father succumbs to illness
he softens toward Dino, dropping his objections to the boy's ideas about hypnosis and revealing
that he knew about the mystery girl in the loft.
In a sometimes difficult-to-understand interview extra, director Emir Kusturika attests that
his story is partly autobiographical and tries to explain the differences under communist
rule. There are a number of amusing details in the film, as when a man interrupts a Moslem
last rites ceremony to protest that the deceased was a Communist! The little brother smiles
at his father's deathbed, because his long hoped-for bicycle has finally arrived.
Koch Lorber's DVD of Do You Remember Dolly Bell? is an okay but unexceptional
enhanced encoding of a film element lacking in good contrast or bright colors. The good
acting and an interesting story hold our attention. There is a gallery of film stills and
the aforementioned interview with the bearded, soft-spoken director.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Do You Remember Dolly Bell? rates:
Supplements: director interview
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: April 19, 2005
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson