Korkoro (Liberté !, Tony Gatlif, France, 2009)
I've seen half a dozen or so of Tony Gatlif's films and I've enjoyed them all - in fact his previous film, Transylvania, was my equal favourite cinema release of 2008. While Gatlif's work documents the way of the Roma (gypsies), the themes are universal to me: celebrations of music, culture, ethnicity and so on. It's the dramatic and visual way in which Gatlif portrays these elements that has much impact for me.
Korkoro (which means liberty in what I presume is Romanian) certainly doesn't disappoint. The visuals are beautifully rendered, and the frame is used wonderfully - sometimes with extreme close-ups, sometimes panoramic. Like Robert Guédiguian's latest film, The Army of Crime, the film is set during World War II. According to the end credits, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 of Europe's 2 million pre-war gypsies died at the hands of the Nazis. This story follows a wandering family of 15 of those.
The Germans in occupied France decreed a law forbidding the movement of itinerants and this family find themselves stranded in a town where they seasonally perform farm work, before they are imprisoned in a camp. The family has the sympathy of the town's mayor - who provides land for the family - and the local teacher, Mademoiselle Lundi (Marie-Josée Croze), who is based on the real-life resistance fighter Yvette Lundy.
I love this film. Not only does it have all the trademark Gatlif traits: wild depictions of gypsy life, wild music and spurts of insanity, but its presentation of the rarely depicted and tragic part that the Roma played in WWII combine to make this a lovely story.
Some of the visuals are amazing, like a sick horse and its gypsy treatment (it'll have you wondering how the hell they got animals to 'act'). The cinematography is superb. The acting is strong and Croze's role is especially beautifully understated. Well worth seeing.