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'America' Embraces a Tale of Friendships and Hardships


Goran Paskaljevic's "Someone Else's America" is the most endearing and affectionate of folk tales, celebrating friendship and the treacherous immigrant experience in all its sorrow and joy.

This is one of the most "foreign" films you'll ever see shot in the United States. It even features an authentic screen legend, Maria Casares, who appeared in Marcel Carne's "Children of Paradise" and Robert Bresson's "Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne" and was the glamorous and enigmatic Death in Jean Cocteau's "Orphee." Casares, now 73, has rarely been seen on the screen in the last 30 years--at least in the U.S.--and interrupted the run of a Paris stage production of "King Lear," in which she played the title role, to appear in this film.

Tom Conti and Miki Manojlovic star as two feckless, middle-aged guys whose friendship is ultimately the mainstay of both men. A versatile British actor with a seedy, comic charm, Conti is cast as Alonso, a wistful Spaniard who runs a neighborhood bar--with nary a customer in sight--on an ancient street hard by the Brooklyn Bridge. A longtime legal U.S. resident, he lives above his business with his elderly, blind mother (Casares), who is eager to return to her small town in Spain.

An illegal immigrant from Montenegro, Manojlovic is the shaggy Bayo, a day laborer who receives a free room from Alonso in return for janitorial duties. Both men do a lot of sitting around gabbing--Alonso dreams of pursuing a young neighborhood beauty, even though he's old enough to be her father and she has been promised to another. Bayo dreams of making a better life for his children in Montenegro--his wife has run off with his best friend.

Even though Alonso and Bayo are getting by living one day at a time, they're overcome with a flurry of developments. While Alonso wants to get his mother back home so she can die happy, her two heart attacks make travel impossible. What to do? Meanwhile, unbeknownst to him, Bayo's own aged mother (Zorka Manojlovic) and Bayo's children are leaving home to come to be with him in Brooklyn.

In the course of the film, Paskaljevic and his writer, Gordan Mihic, reveal the impact of immigration on three different generations. Alonso and Bayo's mothers, despite being strong and gallant women, are too old to adjust to America with any real happiness, whereas Bayo's adult son Luka (Sergej Trifunovic), who has already had a previous stint in the States, embraces the New World with a passionate sense of opportunity and the enterprise of an Arnold Schwarzenegger. Alonso and Bayo are caught in the middle, one foot in Europe, the other in America, and they discover how badly each need's the other's support in dealing with a sense of limbo that may never end.

Paskaljevic draws an endless sense of humor, ruefulness, warmth and pain not only from his stars but from all his principals. Casares brings a fierce pride to her handsome Spanish matron, still eager to dance the flamenco, and Manojlovic brings to her mother a sturdy peasant's resolve to get to work even as the tears roll down her face.

This is a bear hug of a movie, steeped in a picturesque shabbiness, photographed with a richly hued play of light and shadow and scored with a plaintive, oft-repeated refrain. In return, don't be surprised to find yourself embracing "Someone Else's America."

* MPAA rating: R, for language and brief sexuality. Times guidelines: The film is suitable for older children as well as adults.


'Someone Else's America'

Tom Conti: Alonso

Miki Manojlovic: Bayo

Maria Casares: Alonso's mother, Mrs. Victoria

Zorka Manojlovic: Bayo's mother

Sergej Trifunovic: Luka

An October Films presentation of a co-production between MACT Productions, Intrinsica Films, Lichtblick Filmproduktion and Stefi 2 in association with Pandora Cinema. Director Goran Paskaljevic. Producers Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, David Rose and Helga Bahr. Screenplay Gordan Mihic. Cinematographer Yorgos Arvantis. Editor William Diver. Costumes Charlotte Holdich. Music Andrew Dickson. Production design consultant Miljen Kljakovic "Kreka." Art directors Wolf Seesselberg, Caty Maxey. Set decorator Diane Lederman. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Westside Pavilion, 10800 West Pico Blvd., (310) 475-0202, and the University 6, Campus Drive opposite UC Irvine, (714) 854-8811.

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