notes from the underground: the cinema of emir kusturica

by Goran Gocic

(Wallflower Press, 192 pages, $20)

For fans of controversial Yugoslav director Emir Kusturica, Goran Gocic's critical biographical study should be an enlightening, if not exacting, experience. For those interested in gleaning some cinema theory loaded to the gills with clear-headed discussion of cultural studies, semiotics, literature, fine arts and movie gossip, the book should prove equally useful.

Gocic's work reads like an abbreviated college correspondence course in integrated studies, complete with practice tests that double as chapter headings. At first glance it seems inaccessible: heavy on the academic, with observations that lead to presumptions in an intensely deductive manner. That aside, Gocic's book is a valuable contribution to an overwrought genre.

Gocic discusses Kusturica and his films thematically as opposed to chronologically, and the effect produces a book rich with insight. In light of recent criticisms of Kusturica for supposedly supporting Bosnian leader Slobodan Milosevic or, to put it more accurately, for not attacking him directly enough, it seems appropriate to have this more integrated look at the life and work of this celebrated filmmaker.

Kusturica's film career spans most of three decades, beginning with a Golden Lion Award at Venice in 1981 for Do You Remember Dolly Bell? and continuing up to 1995's Underground, a.k.a. Once Upon a Time There Was a Country, which won him his second Palme d'Or at Cannes.

In an atmosphere steeped in sensationalism, this Notes from the Underground is essential reading for fans of Kusturica and cinema alike. James Walling