Serbian comedy at Katharine Cornell


Serbian first-time director Darko Lungulov serves up a savory platter of warm-hearted humor and real life in “Here and There.” The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society presents this “gray” comedy Saturday, June 19, at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

A double 2009 Tribeca Film Festival winner, “Here and There” isn’t quite black comedy, but it certainly doesn’t qualify as lighthearted Steve-Carrell-farce either. We meet the central character, Robert (David Thornton, Cyndi Lauper’s husband), as he wakes up in the morning to get evicted from his New York apartment.

In good times, Robert plays the saxophone. But he’s so surly you’d like to kick him in the butt. His dark hair stands up like a fright wig, and about three days’ growth of beard contributes to making him look like an obnoxious bum.

Branko (Branislav Trifuno) is the friendly young Serbian whom Robert hires to move his furniture to Rose’s (Cyndi Lauper in a cameo appearance), whom we assume is his sister or an ex-girlfriend. One of the pleasures to savor in this charming comedy is the understated way it angles us into life’s small situations.

Desperate to bring his girlfriend Ivana (Jelena Mrdja) to the U.S., Branko persuades Robert to fly to Belgrade, marry her, and bring her back to New York for $5,000. Grimly, Robert agrees. He flies to Belgrade and stays in Branko’s mother Olga’s (Mirjana Karanovic) apartment for the requisite waiting period before the marriage can take place.

With its colorless buildings and overcast skies, Belgrade looks as bleak as Robert’s future. The only spot of color in sight is the bright yellow of the taxicabs.

But the people Robert meets are a different matter. Ivana is as bubbly and excited as any young bride-to-be, and her future mother-in-law Olga, a doe-eyed, sensual charmer.

Ivana’s taxicab-driving brother Mirko hates Americans and tries unsuccessfully to get a rise out of Robert. In contrast, next-door neighbor Tosha is as friendly and warm as Ivana’s brother is hostile.

Mr. Lungulov, who wrote as well as directed “Here and There,” has a knack for capturing personality in the exchanges between his characters. Robert slowly starts to defrost, thanks to Olga’s gracious hospitality.

Complications set in, though, when Branko can’t come up with the cash Robert has insisted on receiving before he will marry Ivana and bring her back to New York. Matters get worse after Olga, who has not been told what the arrangement is between Robert and her son, finds out the truth.

The distinctive cultural flavors of Belgrade and New York contribute to fleshing out the fictive world of “Here and There.” For instance, Tosha, not put off the slightest by the black cloud hovering over Robert’s head, produces two beer mugs out of the trunk of his car for their libation — as if that were the obvious place to keep them.

Subtle comedy of the sort in “Here and There” has to be the most challenging form of filmmaking there is. This slender but satisfying film will set you up for the rest of your evening.

“Here and There,” 8 pm, Saturday, June 19, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Vineyard Haven. $8; $5 members. 774-392-2972;