A FEW YEARS AGO, Eastern European critical theorist Zizeck gave a talk at an American university about his favorite subject, Alfred Hitchcock. Zizcek appalled many in his audience -- who had expected him to put aside his interests in the trivial pleasures of Hitchcock's art and Lacan's theories -- by failing to talk about the war that was raging in his former country. This sad situation represents another tragedy of war: If you happen to come from the former Yugoslavia, you are required to shelve all topics except the war.

When watching Cabaret Balkan (whose title was initially The Powder Keg, but somehow Kevin Costner owns the American rights to that), by veteran Serbian director, Goran Paskaljevic, I was acutely aware that no matter what, this was going to be political film; it was going to make a comment on the crisis that's destroying the former Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, art that tries to capture the tragedy of the moment, though it may be informative and have honorable intentions, rarely withstands the test of time. Timely political films (which are really nothing more than political messages) can never transcend their time; they will vanish, forgotten, in a few years.

Based on a play by young playwright Dejan Dukovski, Cabaret Balkan concerns one night in the city of Belgrade, just before the signing of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord. The film is composed of fluid vignettes connected by the reappearance of characters from previous tales. This mercurial approach enables the film to capture one moment in time: and we see, all at once, the deep psychological damage the war has inflicted on Serbian men (regrettably, women are only victims and bystanders in this film). All the vignettes are good, with my favorite being a bar talk between a jaded taxi driver and the cop who once brutally kicked him in the balls.

This elaborate and very passionate film will be forgotten after peace has settled in this troubled region; but for now, today, and tomorrow, it is worth watching.

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