A heartfelt ode to the Foursome's Esther Williams
Daniel J. Hamlow | Narita, Japan | 09/13/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Four Yugoslavian men living in different places, Popovic, Glenn, Sacha, and Kicha, are stunned when they hear that a woman whom all four loved died. They meet at her funeral in Belgrade. However, we then learn that her surviving daughter was fathered by one of the four. The question is, who was it?The movie then takes us back to a coastal town of Yugoslavia in July 1953, when all four were teenagers on a rowing quartet and the girl, the beautiful blonde Miriana, hung around them as just a good friend and being their coxswain. In fact, the four styled themselves "The Foursome", and they called Miriana "Esther" after Esther Williams, whose music from Bathing Beauty became a theme tune for them. For them, it's also a tune "that brought us a taste of freedom."They also had trouble in the form of Ristic (pronounced Reestich), a man they nickname Joe, not only because that's the name he uses in his English lessons from Sacha's grandmother, but he has a tattoo of Joseph Stalin on his left hand. On his right, there's one of Lenin. Ristic, who bears a strong resemblance to a young Nicolae Ceausescu, dictator of Romania, is their nemesis because he is about 15 years their senior, plus he is on a rival rowing team. Physical fights between them are avoided only due to Esther's intervention, which mollifies Ristic. He too, shows up at Esther's funeral.Rada, a lusty red-haired woman who is the local black marketeer, also plays a role in their lives, as they get the latest Western merchandise from her. She has blue jeans, nylon stockings, Glenn Miller records, and American cigarettes. She also sexually initiates all but one of the boys. An amusing note that emerges is that each boy comes out with a pair of jeans and cigarettes from Rada.All though, have troubles of their own. Popov's father is a doctor banned from private practice due to the Communist regime's rules. Esther's mother has failing health and her father's in exile in Italy. Kicha, whose father is away, has an insufferable lodger, a woman who gives favours with top bureaucrats in her room.The title Hey Babu Riba seems to come from Lionel Hampton's "Hey Ba Ba Re-Bop", and given that the teens are all jazz fans, the title makes sense. Western jazz with its liveliness symbolized the Foursome's taste of freedom. The scenes of childhood have that bittersweet taste of nostalgia, when the Foursome remember their beautiful friend, who loved them as she would a friend, but not exclusively to one in a sexual way.The perception of Titoist Yugoslavia is more that of repression, as there are political prisoners and exiles of the regime, which is interesting considering how Tito was considered the "good Communist" by the West. Here, he's perceived as a ruthless dictator. Also, the line from an official, "rulers don't last but countries do" is ironic, considering this was made in 1987. That year, Slobodan Milosevic was making his political start over the Kosovo debacle. Three years later, Slovenia would declare independence, followed by Croatia and Bosnia.This is the first time I've seen a Yugoslavian film, and given the results, I feel I've dipped into another flavour of European cinema."
Sentimental in the best sense
haregrog | Wilmington, NC United States | 06/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Briefly, Hey Babu Riba is an enjoyably sentimental look at what used to be Yugoslavia, and is a fine coming of age story as well. Charmingly acted and supremely well-constructed, though I "got it" better on second viewing. Normally sentimentality in films is not my thing at all, but as someone with a profound interest in the former Yugoslavia who likes to see a good movie as well, I have been enjoying this film for years. (For a painful reality check, watch and compare the youthful performance of Dragan Bjelogrlic in this movie with his dead-on performance of a soldier stricken with the thousand-yard stare in Pretty Village Pretty Flame, filmed after the horrific wars of the 1990s.)"
Good movie about the 50s in the former Yugoslavia
Peter LaPrade | worcester ma | 04/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jovan Acin's "Hey babu riba" is a very good film about the experiences of four boys and their female coxswain friend, Esther, in 1950s Yugoslavia. The film begins with the group of five rowing out across the border into Italy, where the father of the girl lives in exile. Years later, the four boys are reunited at the girl's funeral, and they reminisce with a man that they really disliked about what had happened. It's a coming of age story as all four are attracted to Esther, but none of them can have her. It's also a story of the effects of communism, as the boys and the man are unable to save Esther's mother from dying because they had no strepomycin in Yugoslavia. It tells tells us how far friends will go for each other. It's sad, but yet worth seeing."
Edward Bosnar | 09/27/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I remember back when I was in college this used to be the only film from the former Yugoslavia you could find in the "foreign" section of any video store in the U.S. It's not a bad film, but compared to some of the really good films that came out of Yugoslavia in the last 20 to 30 years, it's rather middling. The story is set in Belgrade sometime after 1948 (i.e. after the Tito-Stalin split); the main characters are a group of teenagers (4 boys and a girl), so it's something of a coming-of-age film. Although some aspects of the plot are a bit cliched and predictable, the acting is generally very good, so the film is pleasing to watch. The depiction of life in postwar Serbia and Yugoslavia and the onset of the communist system is also quite good, and there are a number of very amusing scenes - particularly involving the `sacrifices' the boys have to make to get a pair of American blue jeans."