‘What Is a Man Without a Mustache?’


Among other things, the implosion of Yugoslavia has seemed to revitalize Slavic film culture, and fittingly for the generation of filmmakers following in Emir Kusturica’s path, the postwar Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian, and Macedonian movies we’ve seen here are given to lusty, warmhearted, mordant comedy. Hrvoje Hribar’s my-semi-sweet-little-Croat village fable What Is a Man Without a Mustache? is typical, beginning with a comical construction death, and then chronicling the changes in a seedy hamlet during postwar development. The tempestuous widow (Zrinka Cvitesic) goes mute for a year and then falls in sex-crazed love with the bankrupt parish’s alcoholic priest (Leon Lucev), who’s plagued by his German-voiced car’s drunk-driving-prohibition settings. German culture is in constant seepage, down to the German émigrés who still recall the shooting of Winnetou, the 1963 German western filmed nearby. A church bell tower in need of repair, an invasion of snakes, army troops (led by the priest’s twin brother), plenty of crisscrossing romantic folly and fatefully pitched woo—Hribar’s film is not remarkable or ingenious in its creation of ethnic gusto and peripheral naturalism, but it’s adept enough for a pass on M:i:III.