Montenegro

Montenegro

This 1981 movie is set in Sweden, is about Swedes, Yugoslavians, and Americans, and is from a Yugoslavian director, so you’d think it would be subtitled, but it’s all in English (all except a bawdy song, which is indeed subtitled).

Montenegro is a zany comedy, supposedly dark and edgy, though to me it’s an example of comedy from other cultures just not translating well. This probably was a lot funnier to Yugoslavians and Europeans, and I guess to certain types of American film critics since it got almost all favorable reviews. I thought it was mildly funny here and there, with the funniest and cleverest scene being a stripper performing with a remote controlled toy tank with a dildo attached to it, to something that sounds vaguely like the Hogan’s Heroes theme song. But a good portion of the humor falls flat as far as I’m concerned.

Part of the problem is I didn’t find the protagonist a sympathetic character at all, or sexy for that matter. She’s the upper class American wife of a businessman in Sweden who travels out of the country frequently and leaves her alone with their two children. I take it we’re supposed to see that she’s bored and neglected, craving excitement in her life. But to me she’s just shallow and frankly crazy.

She does things like put poison in their dog’s dish, not because she necessarily wants him dead, but more just to amuse herself, as a kind of game to see if he’ll eat it. He doesn’t, and she’s fine with that, moving on to wherever her next impulse takes her.

This is funny? Or somehow psychologically interesting in showing what a bored rich housewife can be driven to?

Worse yet it’s a basset hound, my all-time favorite kind of dog. Good thing the bitch didn’t kill him or I may have turned it off right there.

She spontaneously decides to take her husband up on his suggestion that she accompany him on his next business trip, and takes off for the airport to try to catch up with him. She is delayed at security (through her own fault) and misses the flight.

Not having anything to do now and open to some adventure, she falls in with some Yugoslavians or Gypsies or something at the airport and accompanies them to some bizarre residence/night club/strip joint/place where they keep farm animals.

Clearly this is where the main humor of the film comes, such as it is. There’s some vaguely Borat-type material, but only about 5% as funny, with occasional exceptions that work a little better. (I like the bawdy song, for instance, where she doesn’t know what they’re singing.)

Probably most people who like this movie a lot and think it’s hilarious aren’t so much responding to the lines or the story, but to the physical environment and little behavioral quirks and such. It’s a weird place and they’re weird people, and certainly there is some humor in that, whether it be the animals popping up in inappropriate places, or the woman heading to the shower and asking for a towel, and being handed the tablecloth off one of the tables.

You’d think if anything a viewer would be concerned about the woman’s safety in this unfamiliar territory surrounded by bizarre strangers, but I somehow felt more like she was a threat to them. She has such an instability to her that I could see someone falling for her and having that be the biggest mistake of his life, or her getting them in legal trouble or just going off on someone in some kind of psychobitch manner.

The final five minutes or so of the film takes the story even farther from any kind of realism. There had been odd little incidents and such the whole way, but at the end the plot itself goes off the deep end into greater outrageousness with even the husband turning out to be nutty.

Which I don’t know that I liked or disliked. I wasn’t much engaged in the film by then. I probably disliked it a little I suppose in that it just made the movie all that much sillier.

The fact that it has a few scattered laughs here and there, and the inventive scene with the tank dildo, keeps me from rating Montenegro too low, but for the most part it didn’t impress me.

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