There have been hardly any films about gypsies and their culture depicted in Hollywood’s golden age unless they were background figures (The Wolf Man, 1941) or treated in a broad, theatrical manner in comedies (The Bohemian Girl, 1936) or costume dramas (Hot Blood, 1956). King of the Gypsies (1978), based on the Peter Maas novel and featuring Eric Roberts in his film debut, was an attempt to offer an insider look at this often demonized group but seemed more like an unintentional parody than a serious drama. It wasn’t until filmmakers outside the U.S. began to focus on gypsy culture that a number of influential movies on the subject began to appear later in the 20th century such as Aleksandar Petrovic’s Skupljaci Perja (1967), which was released in the U.S. as I Even Met Happy Gypsies.
The New German Cinema of the late sixties-early seventies introduced the world to some of the most original and provocative filmmakers of the 20th century such as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog and Volker Schlondorff, but some of pioneers never attracted much attention outside their own country and their films are in danger of being forgotten. Among them are Helma Sanders-Brahms, Peter Lilienthal, Hans W. Geissendorfer and Thomas Schamoni, who is probably the most obscure of them all. Schamoni worked for most of his career in television, turning out documentaries and made-for-TV movies, but in 1970 he directed his only feature film, A Big Grey-Blue Bird (German title: Ein grober graublauer Vogel). A lo-fi mashup of sci-fi and spy genre elements reminiscent of Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville (1965), it is a playful and surprisingly entertaining cinematic “experiment” that should have found a wider audience.Continue reading