The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, August 17-23

nyc repertory cinema-balkan spy

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Balkan Spy (1984)
Directed by Dušan Kovačević and Božidar Nikolić
It starts with miscommunication. The secret police call in Ilija (an apoplectic Danilo Stojković), for routine questioning. They ask about his tenant. The questioning sets Ilija ablaze: he now believes his tenant is an enemy of the state, a French capitalist spy. Paranoia takes root, and soon thereafter he tails him and bugs his room. Whatever the tenant does, Ilija finds a way to warp it as acts of espionage. So persuasive is his reasoning that he enlists his twin brother and wife to expose the spy. Ilija’s hardline Stalinist sympathies don’t just bubble, but boil to the service, and baby, it’s scalding hot.

Balkan Spy has the elaborate, stone-faced humor of Corneliu Porumboiu. The laughs come from two sources. They come from Stojković’s effusive performance. He’s ready to burst at any minute. And they come from Kovačević. Unknown in the United States, the playwright, screenwriter, and director is a treasure in SFR Yugoslavia (now Serbia). With Balkan Spy, he makes a film-length joke that mocks nationalism, militarism, and nostalgia. Tanner Tafelski (August 23, 8:45pm at Tenant416)

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