Crossing All Borders
Leo Braudy puts it well in his remarks in this collection when he speaks of remakes as a form of "unfinished cultural business." The ending of Kusturica's gypsy narrative, with the young boy who may or may not be Perhan's son stealing the coins off Perhan's permanently sealed eyes before his burial, leaves us with a key to survival for gypsies: steal and run.
It is the perfect closing scene for a film about a culture that has survived because it exists beyond the cultural, political, spiritual, and economic borders of more stolid cultures by being itself perpetually "unfinished," impermanent, and in motion.
Finally, then, Kusturica's film is a survivor too because it refuses, like the gypsies, to be assimilated and identified completely with any one cinematic tradition. The perpetual state of making over cinematic texts and allusions,
with Coppola's The Godfather and Godfather II being the primary object of plundering, locates Kusturica in the "unfinished" state of being a Bosnianborn filmmaker who has gone beyond the borders of geography, politics, language, and regional culture (though he does strongly represent these as well) to "steal" from the international currency of cinema.
This "gypsy-" like approach to narrative and cinema is not the only one available to filmmakers from minority non-English-speaking cultures, of course. Theo Angelopoulos of Greece and Andrei Tarkovsky of Russia, for instance, created internationally praised films by turning away from classical Hollywood and European narrative traditions, cinematic and otherwise.
But Time of the Gypsies is a vibrant example of how the more recognized border crossing represented by Hollywood remaking the films of other cultures can be reversed with imaginative cinematic and provocative cultural implications.
Our parting shot takes us outside of cinema itself.
It is tragically ironic that Kusturica's first film Do You Remember Dolly Bell? ends with a tracking close-up of the main character, our young male rock 'n' roll singer, who, in voice-over as he rides in the back of a truck headed for a new apartment building, says, "In every way, every day, things are getting better." That same skyline in 1995, as this essay is completed, has been blown apart, and millions of the people have been left homeless, almost three hundred thousand murdered, and many others raped and tortured. The all-embracing range of Kusturica's cinematic vision has, in reality, become a nightmare of ethnic hatred that the darkest Hollywood war or crime genre film could not envision.
We can only hope that cinema itself can prove to be one form of border crossing beyond the boundaries of hatred, violence, and death.