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Contract With the Devil

Tucaković reconstructs his story, yet not much as it is known, as chapter of Ray Nicholas´ life.

 

The film is quite diverse and eclectic: there are poetic sequences that evoke old Nicholas movies, which is in general more or less cinematic poetics. Central subject is the arrival of Ray in Belgrade at the beginning of 60s, and the ambition of Yougoslav communist leader Dražević to make his own communist Hollywood and get hold of Oscar Award for the film done by Nicholas. The mainstream film is least convincing in this case because it is reduced to humor anecdotes, to remain entertaining enough. Ray is also in this film in a serious mental whirlwind, due to intake of a lot of bourbon and drugs, while Dražević is a serious comunicator as senior officer and liquidator OZNA, DB or whatever secret services were on power in that period of time (Secret Services of Communist Yougoslavia). He was a leader of emigration of enemies of communist Yugoslavia, and he held all the strings in Avala Film (Serbian Film Company) always surrounded with pretty  starlets in his office. With lots of profanity and intellectual (lack of) gaps, which actually suited to the character and work of such historical figures in communist period. Leading communists after II World War were chosen for the highest position by different standards and that included severe dedication to anti-fascistic movement, but sometime did not included intellectuality or degree of education or at least intelectual interest.


Respected but controversial Ray spent two years in Belgrade in sixties and lived in the most luxurious places, he drove red Porsche, a gift of influential politican Ratko Dražević. The two of them tried to create a' Balkan Hollywood. This is layered film themes touched upon a number of important developments in the Yugoslav era.
The film tries to describe the adventure of legendary film director Nicholas Ray in Belgrade and already has a good reputation in the audience. Goddard once said: "Cinema is Nicholas Ray." A man of such stature tried to make a film Dr Devils by the script written by Dylan Thomas, a writer of the top authorities
in a worldwide cultural scene.

Central character in this story Dražević defined himself in real life as the man who killed a thousand people and slept with a thousand women. It is hard to love such a man. The movie presents a strange combination: Nicholas Ray as a big star and a communist who arrived in the capital as a gambler and drug addict, alcoholic, bisexual and Yugoslav secret service Dražević who understands the potential of Ray, the unconventional man. However, the fact that everything that pierces the conventions and dogmas of communism as a ruling ideology was under State Security: the characters depicted here are not black and white.

 
In the film, Orson Welles and Nicholas Ray meet. If we put parallel with all major productions and all the glam stars coming to communist Yugoslavia to shoot films: Orson Welles, Kirk Douglas, Nicholas Rey etc… and on the other hand the apperance of so called black wave in Yugoslav film, which has appeared to be entire history of our film history. At the same time Makavejev, Žilnik, Pavlovi
ć etc under the same Ratko Dražević come into play and get a chance to record the first films.    Interview with Dinko Tucaković  (Part II)

FFM: What do you expect out of Dr. Ray and the Devils (Doktor Rej I đavoli) ? You have had a great mistreat with the film that you have had edited, The State of the Dead (Država mrtvih), film that provoked strong reactions. Would you expect any strong reactions with Dr.Ray?
Dinko Tucaković:

We have contacts with some great festival, we have a good strategy, and we are waiting answer from some of the major festivals worldwide. According to this festival FEST2012, we had the obligation to have our Serbian premier.  I am glad to start with such film, film that is devoted to cinema. 
  As for the film State of the Dead (Država mrtvih) by Živojin Pavlović, film that I have edit had a different life. This film was a police beat, at the beginning of a civil war in 90s. A bad luck if I would be superstitious. Director of film Pavlović died during the making. Shot material was a problem, producer made a problem, and then some camera operators who were not paid took off with audio recording.  State of the Dead (Država mrtvih) by Živojin Pavlović had a bad karma so we have to repent with scarcely finished film: there were a few other options. Kusturica meant to finish the film. The other film director involved with this project Dragan Kresoja died too. Then we had a problem with the Festival in Venice, I had a great quarrel with the festival director, who is now one of my best friends. However, this film today simply lives according the Internet downloads and was still is rated as excellent. I was invisible in that movie and even I had a string of bad luck too. In fact, Vuk Pavlović who died recently helped me and we had great deal of help by Ministry of Culture of that time Lečić. We finished the film, in dignity. Back then, someone from the government did not wanted this film to get out and drag attention, due to a political changes and upcoming war and that was it.

FFM: How Dr. Ray and the Devils (Doktor Rej i đavoli) will be accepted in former Yugoslavian countries in region? Any interests?
Dinko Tucaković:

It is unbelievable, but colleagues from Zagreb wrote a great fantastic text relating the film. A
rticles appeared in Slovenia and Macedonia. They all are expecting with great interest our film, because there was a time when there was something that could be called Yugoslav Cinematography, although Dražević had a vision of creating a Serbian Film, pushing up dissidents such as Sasa Petrović, Dušan Makavejev and vibrant Pavlović those who would be, according to usual communist politics, enemies of communist Yougoslavia. Dražević was difficult to idealize. He was a man who was at the end of World War II responsible for many deaths. People who were involved in the film in communist Yougoslavia were different, not coming from film schools but directly from army boots. What is symptomatic here is that this simple, plain and not too educated man had a vision. In addition, this vision is clearly a result.


FFM:  A little about cinematography in region?
Dinko Tucakovic:
Cinematography in the region is showing signs of vitality, but there are many problems. In Croatia, for example, everything is financed via television via HAVC and funding is provided for limited number of films. We are, however, getting a new law on cinematography, but we do not know how much money will be behind the law. Yet to enact a statute of Film Centre of Serbia, to make a film fund is important for us to cooperate with the cinematography in the region. Some films made a positive income. Nevertheless, what is not good in the region is the obsession with the movies that speak about the civil war. This very important issue needs to be processed in the movie but not in all films. On such film, lot of money is wasted and I am not sure the authors know exactly what they want. And we have got a new genre comedy, which in itself has a context of war but not direct, and is comedy, that will be film Parade (Parada)
directed by Srdjan Dragojević, film that made through on Berlin Film Festival.  I think that the region should turn to something else, its future. In Serbia there are new authors such as: Nikola Ležaić with film Tilva Rosh (Tilva Roš) who made a major breakthrough on the big festivals and the topic is not a previous war. We saw the success of the film by Maya Miloš, there are other issues to be screened in Serbia not just war.

FFM: Filmmakers of the region?
Dinko Tucaković:
Now there are many quality filmmakers in the region, who developed specific film langua
ge: there are films in the region that provide high results. In Slovenia, I like Jan Cvitkovič, in Croatia I like Dalibor Matanić, in Macedonia I like Teona Strugar Mitevska.


 
 FFM: What do you think about films in Serbia that talk about brutality, based on the aesthetics of horror films or pornography, films that are made to provoke or perhaps make money? I am thinking about A Serbian Film (Srpski film), untypical film for Serbia. Is that future Serbian cinema?
Dinko Tucaković:
A Serbian Film (Srpski film) directed Srdjan Spasojevic bases a specific project on the antics of the title. All films should be viewed in order to condemn and to critically examine. Nevertheless, this cannot happen without the act of seeing the film. On the other hand, A Serbian Film (Srpski film) became widely known among horror film followers, achieving cult genre. However, what is very important and should be emphasized is that state or government should not’t
intervene, because this film is not anti-state of Serbia. Srdjan Spasojević as a director of this film is interesting. He now works on omnibus film that is part of horror omnibus. He himself is quite defined and recognized in the genre of horror film: that is good in our film industry that lacks in terms of genres. Serbian cinematography always have had movies for children, a great comedy pictures and there was very little horror films. The last one who played with this genre was Slobodan Sijan who was not running away from the genre and made out in something called an auteur film in Serbia.
 In addition, the reason why the film cannot be defined is because the films were formed spontaneously and there are limited numbers of people on film fund committees that receive funding. Regardless of success, no one knows whom and based on what will receive the funds for the next film. However, it is important not to have the state to be a producer of film. The state does not recognize films that are of national interest. Once again, we will have elections again and it will be roulette, and we will see how it will be with new people in the Ministry for Culture.

FFM: You are a film critic, what kind of future film critics have?
Dinko Tucakovic:
I always sat on a big film festival next to great names of film critics. For example, Klaus Eder a head of FIPRESCI Association in Munich, a synonym for film criticism on the international level, hardly lives out of film critics. In general, there is a tendency in the world to have more adverts about the film and pr writings then any kind of film criticism. Here in Belgrade is Peter Bogdanovich.  Entire life he wrote about film, magazines do not cherish film critics. Criticism is mainly on the Internet blogs, and everything else is just pr work.
 Several years ago there was a seminar at Cannes Film Festival named Who Need Film Critics. I use to read film reviews before going to the movies. You cannot live from film criticism.


FFM: About the future of Kinoteka in Belgrade. Kinoteka is the Yugoslav Film Archive?
Dinko Tucaković:
All Film Archives are going through a difficult phase of transition to digital
inscription. Many films made in 2012 will not have a copy of the film. I watched main program of the Berlin festival, all the films were digital on DVD formats, and only one film copy. The winner of last year's Cannes festival The Tree of Life in Cannes was showed on HD beams, and the cinema is digital distribution.  World Film Archive does not yet know how to keep the film formats of older films alive, because they are hard to store. Hard disk can be stored for several years but must be format every few months, computer are not yet adapted to standard. Switching on film tape is very expensive. One title cost several thousand euros; I think the law should have long paragraph for funding Film Archives, in order to preserve cultural film heritage for future generations. Seriously, we are working on digital restoration of movies in our digital center.

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