Much as Paul Thomas Anderson did with MAGNOLIA, Bosnian filmmaker Jasmin Dizdar
invokes the spirit of Robert Altman in his film BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. Interweaving the stories of
some 25 characters, Dizdar paints a portrait of 1993 London filtered through the eyes of the
"outsider" -- whether it be the immigrant or the disenfranchised or merely the dissatisfied. The
film's strength (which also points up its weakness) lies in the way Dizdar allows the myriad stories
He tells to unfold. There are roughly four major story lines that emerge: a twentysomething heroin
addict determined to travel to Amsterdam with his mates to attend an important soccer match
inadvertently ends up in the former Yugoslavia; a recently separated obstetrician struggling
to retain custody of his sons becomes aware of the atrocities committed in Bosnia via one of his
patients; a Serb and a Croat wage an almost comic battle that spills over from public
transportation to their shared hospital room; and a medical student from a posh background falls
in love with a refugee she met while treating him in the hospital.
In cut and dry terms, the plot doesn't sound like much, but Dizdar and his gifted cast bring
the film to life. While he owes much to Altman for his structure, the writer-director also invokes
the socio-political aspects of British films like those of directors Mike Leigh and Kenneth Loach.
Issues of class (hilariously and poignantly played out in a dinner scene between the medic, her
Bosnian lover and her snooty family) and ethnic identity (the cartoon-like carryings on between
the Serb and the Croat) permeate the piece. Each character is forced to reexamine his or her
views and in most cases change them, lending the title a degree of irony and a degree of truth.
I suspect how one reacts to the film will be dictated by one's taste. Just as Altman and Paul
Thomas Anderson have their champions and their detractors, I'm sure this film will as well. The
cast all do well in their roles, with Danny Nusbaum as the heroin addict, Edin Dzandzanovic as
the Bosnian refugee who romances the doctor and makes a startling revelation and Nicholas
Farrell as the overworked medic coping with a crumbling marriage standing out.
While Dizdar still has a few things to learn about pacing scenes, he almost compensates
with a stunning final sequence that takes several of the stories to logical but sometimes surprising
conclusions. In the end, then, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE achieves its goal. It raises some important
issues and leaves its audience to contemplate them without a sanitized or manufactured happy
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.