Nemanja & Brane Bala
Kino Lorber Region 1 DVD
Filmed documentary style, it takes a few minutes to realized that everything in Love Hunter is staged for the camera. The film follows Milan Mumin, a rock star in his native Serbia, working as a struggling cab driver in New York City. Forty years old, and hoping to make his first recording in the U.S., Mumin, would at first glance seem an unlikely star. That changes when I takes out his guitar on a bet that his song would make one of his passengers happy.
Beefy, with hair cut close to his scalp, and a very prominent nose, Mumin looks like a workaday guy you might find almost anywhere in New York, or any major city. That changes when he sings. The voice is gruff, the English is accented but not heavily. There is a brief moment from a documentary showing Mumin and his band, Love Hunters, performing in a stadium, from 1995. Even then, Mumin hardly looked like the expected notion of a rock star.
A little bit of historical context - Mumin sang in English, even during his time in what was then Yugoslavia. The Love Hunters in their original lineup, with a couple of changes, played from 1987 through 2003. The real Mumin has continued to play music professionally, both in the U.S., and in Serbia.
Trying to secure enough money for recording studio time, Mumin deals with his bass player suddenly quitting and his long time fiancee coming to visit from Serbia. Not happy with the musicians he auditions, Mumin finds Kim, the roommate of a friend, playing behind the closed door of her bedroom. The two have a relationship that alternates between adversarial and platonically romantic, a relationship that Mumin's fiancee, Lela, finds threatening. In between, the film shows Mumin with his various passengers and friendship with a fellow cabbie. Additionally, Mumin's drummer and guitarist are unhappy with the preferential treatment Mumin gives to the newest band member.
The film is also the Bala brothers love letter to New York City. There is one scene with the Washington Square arch in the background. The Balas New York City is mostly comprised of the parts not hit by gentrification, inexpensive all night restaurants, and neighborhood bars.
There is footage of Mumin performing his songs, and having his songs heard offscreen as a kind of commentary. Additionally, Mumin lip synchs some of his songs as seemingly impromptu musical numbers.
It's a nice touch to this modestly produced film about a musician whose need to create music takes presidents over everything else.