Can you call a film Transylvania and not have it about vampires? Well, Tony Gatlif has, and just about got away with the wrath of a blood sucking audience by
a) exhibiting in arthouse joints
b) having it about gypsies instead.
Actually Transylvania is less about gypsies than the perception of gypsies. At the heart of the film is the very absence of who should be the lead gypsy character. Asia Argento plays a bat-shit nuts French woman planning to marry her Romany musician boyfriend. Unfortunately he gets deported first and double unfortunately she discovers she is pregnant. Triple misfortune occurs when she seeks him down in Transylvania, and he tells her he wasn’t actually deported, he used it as an excuse to leave her. All to the strains of wild fiddle music and vaguely drunken film logic. Of course what Asia does is go on a massive bender, smoke more than the Surgeon General would recommend for a pregnant lady and dress up like a gypsy herself. Indeed she become the wild crazed loon, in headscarves and with bizarre rituals surrounding her. Accompanied by a charming chancer (who is clearly not of Romany stock) we get to see through a number of vignettes what the perception (ours and the characters) of gypsy life it. And it ain’t pretty.
It also make s little narrative sense. Which is fine because the main appeal of Transylvania is more visceral. It is the squealing music, it is the whirling colours, it is the impressionistic anger of this young woman. This is the kind of role Argento has made her own (and she has done really well for a girl named after a prog rock band). Does it make any sense? No. Does it appeal to the senses, very much so. If you’ve ever wanted to see a woman standing in bucket of wine have a bucket of milk emptied over her in a church, this is the film for you.