Jagoda In The Supermarket.
An Emir Kusturica presentation of a Rasta Films (Belgrade)/Pegasos Film (Cologne)/Fandango (Rome) production. Produced by Emir Kusturica.
Directed, written by Dusan Milic. Camera (color, DV-to-35mm), Petar Popovic; editor, Svetolik Mica Jajc; music, Nenad Jankovic, Dejan Sparavalo; art directors, Milenko Jeremic, Rade Mihajlovic; costume designer, Zora Popovic; sound (Dolby Digital), Branko Djordjevic; assistant director, Misa Terzic. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 7, 2003. Running time: 83 MIN.
With: Branka Katic, Srdjan Todorovic, Dubravka Mijatovic, Danilo Lazovic, Goran Radakovic, Mirjana Karanovic, Nikola Simic, Zorka Manojlovic.
Dog Day Afternoon" goes food shopping in the vigorous comedic drama "Jagoda in the Supermarket." Story of a spunky checkout girl and a bumbling war vet who bond during a touchy hostage situation is told with wit and style by helmer Dusan Milic. Name of Emir Kusturica as presenter, producer and (in a brief cameo) as a military general should generate the necessary interest to fill pic's basket with lest offers, modest arthouse receipts and strong ancillary numbers.
Everybody wants to be at the grand opening of the sparkling new Yugo-American food store in Belgrade. "Pay Serbian, Eat American" is one of many catchy slogans being bandied about by the chipper sales staff. The sliding doors still don't work so well, but the shelves are groaning with merchandise and the event appears to be a success.
At flanking checkout islands, 30-year-old Jagoda (Branka Katic) and her pal Ljubica (Dubravka Mijatovic) trade barbs and gossip even as they're ringing up purchases. When Jagoda's potential date, Nebojsa (Goran Radakovic), is pilfered from under her nose by the more flirty Ljubica, Jagoda takes out her frustrations by refusing to sell strawberries to an elderly woman (Zorka Manojlovic) around closing time.
The next day, as the aisles are crammed with eager shoppers, the agitated Marko (Srdjan Todorovic) pulls out an automatic weapon and commences shooting indiscriminately. (There don't seem to be any fatalities.) Marko takes a handful of hostages--including Jagoda and Ljubica---and forces the former to bind themselves together with plastic wrap.
The ruckus attracts the attention of a special negotiating task force led by Nebojsa, who must juggle the eccentric demands of the terrorist (at one point Marko pelts them with sausages); an overly aggressive SWAT team; and an elderly, incontinent sniper code-named "Sparrow Hawk," called out of retirement. There's also the touchy diplomatic reality that the store is an American-owned operation.
Is there a terrorist agenda? Not exactly. Marko, a former soldier haunted by the "pressures" of war--which actually consisted of him cooking for an elite squad of commandos--has had enough and vowed to take revenge on the capitalist enterprise that refused to sell his grandmother some strawberries the evening before. When Jagoda volunteers to be the sole remaining hostage, it appears love will bloom between her and Marko, even though the latter is unaware it was Jagoda's action that set him off in the first place.
Thanks to Milic's logical script and energetic direction, pic works as both a tense actioner and a left-field love stow, with broad and often humorous political metaphors for those who want them. There are also specifically Serbian in-jokes: casting the flamboyantly counterculture Kusturica as a long-haired general is a prime example, as is the heroine's name. (Jagoda is Serbian for "strawberry.")
Katic, who impressed as the no-nonsense trucker in Fatih Akin's "In July," proves adept with light comedy as well. One of those thesps able to be both sexy and klutzy--often in the same shot--she injects just the right amount of whimsy into a woman who seems to have found a vow unlikely Prince Charming. As Marko, Todorovic is all bug-eyed menace as the supposedly elite soldier who can't seem to keep from slipping in the slick aisles, and the peculiar demands of the role--violent one moment, scared in spite of himself the next--are handled deftly.
Tech credits are solid, with washed-out vid images heightening the immediacy of the siege. Pic's true star is the market itself, with kudos to art directors Milenko Jeremic and Rade Mihajlovic for the well-stocked shelves seen in numerous long shots and subsequently destroyed in meticulous detail.