You Love Only Once: Cinema as the Ultimate Interpersonal Contact

    It seems that it was not until the contemporary global film historiography that serious consideration has been given to the great and unique cinema of Yugoslavia – the "Yugoslav New Wave", a cinema that the local historiographers likewise regard as the only canonical and coherent film period of the country. However, ‘in the footnotes,’ the chroniclers mention another group of filmmakers whose common link is the period – the turbulent Sixties – and the place of study – the prestigious Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU). These directors, having witnessed the Prague Spring events during their studies, include Rajko Grlić, Srdjan Karanović, Goran Marković, Goran Paskaljević and Lordan Zafranović (historians only rarely include among the group their younger colleague, Emir Kusturica). 

    These filmmakers left a distinguishing mark on the Yugoslav cinematography of the 1970s and 1980s and pursued their professional careers well into the new century. And although the directors firmly deny that their filmmaking styles are in any way related or interdependent, the group has been applied the label "Prague School" (or "Czech Film School" and "Prague Wave"). However, while their films really do differ in terms of themes, aesthetics, poetics, their shared characteristic is the timeframe of their release dates, and their socio-political environment (even if extremely varied); their common (or differentiating?) traits are original cinematic styles and worldviews, but also the ability to attract the interest of both the professionals in the field and the general public.

    Rajko Grlić started out on his professional career with a number of short films (the first is Us From Prague, portraying the abovementioned group of students), followed by first narrative feature films Whichever Way the Ball Bounces, Bravo Maestro and You Only Love Once, which created a buzz on the national and international festival circuits, attracting a wide audience and giving prominence to a filmmaker who has stayed in top form throughout his career as a director. 

    The distinguishing characteristic of Grlić’s body of work is a precise insight into people’s lives reflecting the struggle between a character and larger social forces; his films are set in specific periods and environments that communicate with the world despite, or precisely because of, their specific realities. Erotically charged and full of humour, his films – true to their commitment to realism – are often dark and witty at the same time, difficult but refreshing to watch, invariably bitter but communicating with the viewer in a clear manner. 
    Grlić has devoted his entire life to film – as a director, screenwriter (also for other directors) and producer of films for cinema and television, as a professor and lecturer, founder of a popular film festival in Motovun...

    Among the abovementioned luminaries, Grlić’s connection with Slovenian cinematography is most direct: he made four feature films (Charuga, The Border Post, Just Between Us, The Constitution) in Slovenian co-production, including Slovenian actors and crew members, worked on You Only Love Once with screenwriter Branko Šömen and co-directed with Matjaž Ivanišin the documentary Every Good Story is a Love Story (Vsaka dobra zgodba je ljubezenska zgodba), an inquiry into the personal relationships and creative partnerships between the biggest names in Slovenian art and culture.

    After Liffe, the Rajko Grlić Retrospective continues in the Slovenian Cinematheque, and the filmmaker is to visit Ljubljana on two occasions: to present his films and launch his autobiography in Slovenian translation, Še ne povedane zgodbe (As yet Untold Stories) subtitled Režiserjeve beležke o izgnanstvu, družini in filmu (A Director's Memoirs on Exile, Family and Film, published by the Slovenian Cinematheque) during the film festival. On his second Retrospective visit, at the end of November, he will conduct a masterclass on scriptwriting.

    Varja Močnik