1996, NR, 80 min. Directed by Tony Gatlif. Starring Philippe Petit, Pierette Fesch, Jerry Smith, Ovidiu Balan.
REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., Aug. 8, 1997
Mondo marshals a glorious cornucopia of images that illustrate the ecstatic, mystical world view of the gypsies and symbolically warn of what we stand to lose if their ancient culture finally vanishes. The eye of the gypsy in this story is Mondo (Balan), a scruffily adorable homeless boy of about 10 who, true to his people's tradition, appears seemingly out of nowhere in the French port city of Nice. Sleeping in trees and sea grottos, feasting on wild fruit, and slaking his thirst on dew, he embodies the romantic ideal of living in the bosom of nature. Gatlif's ambitions for this film go well beyond aesthetic wankery, and that he's not really even attempting to address homelessness per se. The essence of the story is in the late going, when society's walls begin to close in. Uncomprehending cops, bureaucrats, and citizens, unnerved by his presence, define him as “wild” and “dangerous” and try to cut the umbilical cord linking him to nature and his unbound imagination. Gatlif's poetically suggestive resolution carries a hopeful reminder that it's never too late to retrieve the riches which lie forgotten in remote chambers of our souls.