23/05/2008 03:40

Kad budem mrtav i beo (When I Am Dead and White)

SFRJ, 1967, 79 min
: Živojin Pavlović
Cast: Dragan Nikolić, Ružica Sokić, Dara Čalenić, Neda Spasojević, Slobodan Aligrudić, Severin Bijelić, Nikola Milić, Zorica Šumadinac
Awards: Great Golden Arena in Pula Festival, 1968, first prize for best film in festival in Karlovi Varimi 1968, first prize in Panorama of European Film in Athens in 1995, on the occasion of 100 years of cinematography. Selection: Retrospective of a Domestic Author

Kad budem mrtav i beo (When I Am Dead and White) belongs to the category of the greatest achievements of Yugoslav and Serbian cinematography of all time. With WR, misterije organizma (WR Mysteries of the Organism) by Dušan Makavejev, it is certainly the greatest hit of the black wave, and Yugoslav Film Archive declared it the second best domestic movie ever, right behind Ko to tamo peva. An interesting thing is that Dragan Nikolić acts in both of the movies.

Yet another social drama by Živojin Pavlović follows a tragicomic fate of a season worker Janko, called Jimmy Barka, a man of low moral qualities and uncertain future, with his mother, a cleaning woman, too poor to help him, while he cannot find a job in factories and companies. In a situation like that, he leaves with his girlfriend Lilica to the unknown, in hope for better tomorrow, but in an escape from building workers that they stole from earlier, the couple breaks up, and soon, Jimmy meets a tavern singer, becomes her lover, and starts to dream of a singing career. He learns to sing from her, but he does it quite modestly, so he sings only on fairs and in army-barracks. He goes to Belgrade with a young dentist on a talent show, but the audience whistles to him, being a “folk singer” during the time when “beat” music flourishes. Again, he meets Lilica who lives of scams and thefts, and he starts a game of blackmailing with her, which leads to a tragic ending, so typical to many Pavlović’s works.

The screenplay for this movie was written by Gordan Mihić. An anecdote from past says that John Slezinger was so impressed when he saw this “not so known Yugoslav movie”, that he was inspired by it to make his Midnight Cowboy. A curiosity is also the fact that the award in Athens in 1995, that this movie shared with Century by Stephen Poliakoff, was awarded to Kad budem mrtav i beo (When I Am Dead and White), even though it was not in a single official competition.