Saturday, January 8, 2022

Mirno Leto (1961)

While Christmas has already come and gone for most of the world, the same cannot be said for many of the Slavic states, where Santa visits late. Who knows why. Maybe he just needs the break. Bringing presents to the whole world is a big task after all. To commemorate Yugoslavia's Christmas, January 7th, I'll take a look at a recently remastered Macedonian gem...

Zare and Mira are a happy couple living a cramped life in Skopje, until Zare's job gains him a summer house in Ohrid for 3 months, as he clears and prepares a museum. They receive an unwanted guest when family friend Dara invites herself after a breakup. One becomes two when Zare's older colleague decides to show up. Then Mira's brother comes onto the scene, with a few friends. And all of a sudden the peaceful summer getaway becomes just as crowded as it was back home!...

Mirno Leto (A Quiet Summer) comes from Yugoslavia in the early 60s, but its message and content is universal-Don't people just get in the bloody way? It a gentle, lighthearted comedy, that breezes right by and never fails to entertain. The story perfectly portrays the frustration one would feel in a situation like this, showing how things go out of your hands, and grow and grow, until it becomes unbearable.

Watching any foreign movie without subtitles isn't exactly recommended (thankfully I had some for this) but some things are universal, from older professors crushing on young ladies, to mature guys fishing, youngsters partying, etc

The characters here are numerous, but entertaining. Zare and Mira are good leads. They start out as a great couple, sharing nice chemistry, and charming moments together. As the film goes on there is more tension between them, but it never gets to be too much, and naturally everything is resolved in a happy ending.

Dara is an amusing friend, boy-crazy, oblivious, and in the way. The professor is a softly spoken guy, without a bad or impatient bone in his body, and the heart of a romantic. Darko and his mates are a fun bunch! Rowdy and loud, but also goodhearted. They serve a good purpose, and their overall presence gave me a Beach Party vibe.

Something admirable about Mirno Leto is how perfectly it captures the reality of an unwanted guest. Not all are necessarily assholes. They might be your best friend, a dear colleague, family members, etc. Good people, who you ordinarily like, but when they're in your way during alone time, it gets on your nerves. The movie captures their negatives along with their positives really well. Dara for example is a footloose girl who can't take a hint, but she's sincere, and her romance with the professor is genuine. And Darko is a young partygoer, but has a good relationship with his prospective fiancee Vera, and encounters opposition well.

The film does have its fair share of outright villains though. Vera's father is antagonistic in opposing the young lovers' marriage. Then there's the vulgar Kotsev family, who are all terrors in different ways. The patriarch is a bit of a sleazebag, presumptuous and fresh. His wife is a venomous old bat, weedling her way into a stranger's home for nothing, then insulting her hosts for living in a museum. And the kids meanwhile are destructive little scamps, although in uninentional and occasionally well-meaning ways. The son was the most likeable, and has a funny interaction with Mira at the end.

With a movie as packed as this, it's a relief that every character serves a purpose. This doesn't mean it's not confusing though! I did remember all the characters, but I often got Vera and Frog mixed up with Mira and Dara, thanks to their hair colours and styles. Also there are so many characters that not everyone gets the most to do. It's never bad, but I wish there was more of Frog and her crush/working relationship with Zare.

Macedonia isn't often high on tourist lists, and even when they do go to the Balkans, it's usually to the beaches of Croatia. Fair enough, but Macedonia has plenty of lovely spots to visit too, as can be seen here. Mirno Leto showcases the summer appeal of places like Skopje and Ohrid nicely.

I also enjoyed the culture a lot too. The 1960s seemed more sophisticated in so many ways. It was also fun seeing all the old products, as well as the phones, cars, flats, etc.

The direction in Mirno Leto is very good. There's a scene near the end that impressively shows the disorientation the leads are feeling. One shot I especially admired was when Zare storms back into the house and up the stairs, and the camera pulls back to reveal Darko and Vera talking.

The actors here all give good performances, from romantic, to funny, to overbearing, exasperated, and more. Ljupka Dzundeva and Slobodan 'Cica' Perović are great leads, with the latter nailing his part, resembles a sad dog in many scenes.

The music is very nice, and has a great summery Mediterranean feel. It reminded me of Evil Under the Sun, from 20 years later. I could easily imagine Poirot swanning around an island resort to this music, solving murders and bathing in the sun.

Mirno Leto is a neat little movie, and shows that Macedonian cinema has been producing good movies for a fair while! I am very grateful for the people whose hard work went to in remastering this and others, and their part in restoring the cinematic legacy of the Balkans...

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