Manchevski reaches out to American audiences

The Jerky Boys were in the same Seattle hotel doing
publicity for their “film”. The Jerky Boys got on KUBE. The Jerky
Boys got mobbed at Blockbuster Video by drunk frat boys. Milcho
Manchevski, Macedonian writer/director of Before The Rain,
receives considerably less attention in his hotel room. The 35-year
old Manchevski goes to bed early. He has never heard of The Jerky

By the next morning, The Jerky Boys have left town.
Paul Newman rhapsodizes with Barbara Walters on TV and Manchevski
watches, but keeps the sound off. Cassette tapes sit in a row on
the coffee table: The Last Emperor soundtrack, "The
Complete Tom Jones," and Nirvana’s "Nevermind." Nirvana’s “Lithium” in
each of his film’s three sections, but his producers were “too
cheap” to buy the rights. He settled for “So What’cha Want” by
The Beastie Boys.

Each of Before The Rain‘s three sections puts
a person out in the rain, literally. In the first, a Macedonian
monk living a vow of silence in a 12th century monastery discovers
an Albanian girl hiding in his room.

In the second, a British woman is torn between two
men, her marriageminded boyfriend and a rakish photographer, Aleksander
(Bade Serbedzija). The third segment follows Aleksander’s return
to his Macedonian hometown which he finds razored with racial strife.

Interrelated but self-contained, the trilogy of
stories builds with each successive crisis from quietly personal
concerns to global, political ones.

The non-linear plot might remind some of Pulp
, but Manchevski chuckles at the comparison. He spoke
with Quentin Tarantino in Venice and Stockholm—”Extremely
smart writer, in Pulp Fiction he did what Hollywood has been
trying to do for eighty years”—but Before The Rain owes
more to the Aleksander Petrovic film Three (1965).

“Almost every film is in three parts,” he
says, “it’s just not acknowledged. In Macedonia they had a vote-in
contest on which film people liked better, mine or Pulp Fiction.”

Who won?

“We did. But they would in L.A.” Before
The Rain
is Manchevski’s debut feature, and the first film
to come out of the new republic of Macedonia. The populace
declared their independence in 1991 after the dissolution of
Yugoslavia. The tiny nation is still much beleaguered; UN troops,
including 560 American GI’s, patrol the country’s borders with
Serbia and Albania.

Manchevski, who left Macedonia as a teenager for
New York (he directed videos, most notably, “Tennessee,” by Arrested
Development) began writing his first feature film in November 1992.
Before the Rain filmed in Macedonia for seven weeks, then
packed up and moved to London for three more—just in time
for the U.K. to diplomatically recognize the new republic.  The
finished film has Macedonian, British, and French producers, whose
names shall not appear in this article since Manchevski’s attitude
towards them is cool. “The four major producers had never produced
before. The camera was three days late for the first day of photography.
We sat around playing cards.”

Britain’s Channel Four sunk money in Before The
but pulled out. “They wanna be a studio when they grow
up,” sighs Manchevski.

As bellboys clear away the coffee, I ask Manchevski
what films he would take to a desert island. “The Tenant,” he says. “I
would take Goodfellas, either Drugstore Cowboy or My
Own Private Idaho
, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.”