Harry Potter!
Cinema Signal:

Directed by Steven Soderburgh

. "A Wonderful Night in Split"

This is a multi-part, episodic, almost analytic dissection of simultaneous events in an important European city on New Year's Eve. It was written and directed by Croatian director Arsen Anton Ostojic' using sophisticated and clever storytelling technique that has character depth and drama. It breaks down into 3 primary stories which are simultaneous and overlapping.

In the medieval Ghetto of Split, three couples confront problems of love, drugs and death while New Year's Eve celebrations are being led by an entertainer (Dino Dvornik) who is, himself, a major drug dealer, though everyone sees him as a popular song and comedy man. In any case, someone has to pull the restless crowd together for the big moment, and he proves to be quite capable.

While his show is going on, we get into the story of Nick (Mladen Vulic) and Maria (Marija Skaricic) when Nick is both trying to prove his feelings toward Maria and her son, and apologizing for having to take off on a prearranged trip to score drugs.

At the same time, Maja (Marija Skaricic), a slender, sexy junkie is getting increasingly strung out and desperate for a fix. Her usual contacts rebuff her because of past credit problems and she winds up entertaining Franky (debuting Coolio), an off-duty American sailor, as part of a scheme by his buddies to make him forget being dumped by his girlfriend. Despite her willingness to strip and perform according to his wishes, Franky's needs become something else and she gets paid for time served.

The third story involves naive teenage lovers, Luke (Vicko Bilandzic) and Angela (Ivana Roscic), and their frustrated attempts to find a venue for a tryst and a drug induced illusion that upstages the New Year's show and the entertainer.

Writer-director Ostojic' is the hero in the end for very appropriate casting (half of them non-actors and all from Split itself) and the adept realization of an adventurous story structure that cuts well, unifies the parts into an intelligible, effective whole, and delivers its message about the wasting effects of drugs on individuals and the fabric of society. Not so distant from many another sovereign nation.

It is the official Croatian entry in the Motion Picture Academy's Best Foreign Language Film for 2005 and does not have a release date as of the time of this writing. Look for it.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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