Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski’s debut feature in 1994, before the rain, was a powerful and witty portrayal of the violent ethnic conflicts that tore their homeland apart. The film, which premiered in Venice, took home the Golden Lion and was nominated for an Oscar, turning Manchevsky into a formidable artistic talent overnight.
That was more than twenty years ago, and in the decades that followed, the director never managed to get past his first feature film, completing a handful of films that received limited release or festival play, the best of them being 2019. Willowit won a few awards and was picked up for distribution by Kino Lorber, but failed to generate the same general enthusiasm.
The bottom line Neither subtle nor sensual.
Neither subtle nor sensual.
His latest work, the raunchy and extravagant drama Cream, seems destined for the same fate. Entertaining to a degree, but also exaggerated and a bit ridiculous, the film follows two Macedonian couples who live in the same apartment building in Skopje, the country’s capital.
Coming from different social classes, the couples barely cross paths, except when yelling at each other out the window. But they do have one thing in common, which is that they’re both in the midst of mid-life crises, which results in a lot of sex, a bit of violence, and a lot of the film’s titular food, a creamy, sweet-tasting Turkish cheese. , which is bought, consumed and even sprinkled on bare meat.
Manchevsky clearly wanted his film to have the same light and delightful consistency, but its humor is heavy-handed and its gender politics unstable, even if female characters dominate the narrative. There are also too many sexual escapades that aren’t, well, very sexy, giving the film an almost cheesy side that lacks much appeal. After playing in the main competition in Tokyo, it is unlikely that he will travel very far.
The setting has an up/down divide that is initially intriguing, though Manchevski never gets her anywhere: Rich banker Eva (Kamka Tocinovski) and her slacker Metodi (Filip Trajkovikj) live in the fabulous attic of the building, having everything at hand. her favor except for her inability to conceive a child. They agree to hire a young country relative, Dosta (Sara Klimoska), to be the surrogate mother, but things turn their household upside down when Dosta wants to play a bigger role in the baby’s life than Eva is willing to. to do. give him.
Meanwhile, the small ground-floor apartment is occupied by the working-class couple of Caramba (Aleksander Mikic) and Danche (Simona Spirovska). He is an aging security guard at the bank where Eva works, and she works at a bakery. Their relationship is clearly fritz, but that all changes when Caramba starts having an affair with local food vendor and kaymak vendor Violetka (Ana Stojanovska), who gradually ends up transforming the pair into a happy, kinky, albeit only threesome. be temporarily.
The film jumps back and forth between the two trio, who rarely interact until a fatal encounter towards the end. Manchevsky used a similar method in his earlier work, following characters whose fates intertwine at different points in the same story, allowing him to tackle a theme, such as the effect of the Yugoslav wars on Macedonia (now officially known as Macedonia). North) in before the rain — from various angles.
But here the method produces nothing as strong as in the director’s debut, with each series of threesomes reaching unbridled levels of hysteria as sexual and marital tensions boil over.
Eva’s comeuppance, after her plan to have a baby at all costs fails, is predictable and overly elaborate, especially when she urinates in public during a nervous breakdown. The naughty antics of the downstairs group are no more engaging, and Gosh is soon left behind when the two women in her life fall head over heels in love. She eventually becomes her humiliated servant, brings them coffee in nothing more than an apron, and gives us a little ass pounding in the process. Seriously, who wants to see that?
Manchevsky seems to be commenting on how the needs of the individual and those of the couple are always in conflict, but his observations are often lowered to the level of caricature. Applying some of the stylistic devices present in his other films (oversaturated colours, immersive manual camera work, many cross-cuts between stories), he never manages to convert Cream in an attractive subject. For all the sex, domestic drama, and at least one death at the end, the film ultimately feels anecdotal: a minor job from a director who once gave us something major.
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