Table of Contents

Le lexique subjectif d'Emir Kusturica

Title Le lexique subjectif d'Emir Kusturica
Author Matthieu Dhennin
Publisher L'Âge d'Homme
Language French
Release 9 juin 2006

This book deals more about the man than his work, and tries to draw a portrait made of contrasts, little and big stories, oppositions, fights and friendships, in short : a collection of anecdotes and selected interviews extracts that should allow everyone to better understand the man who hides behind his films. Written as an homage to Milorad Pavić's Khazar Lexicon the book is made of various entries, alphabetically sorted, allowing a linear or a transversal reading, at your choice. Complementary to the website, the book should still learn many things to anyone who has already read all the pages, and reciprocally.

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Le lexique subjectif d'Emir Kusturica is a portrait with multiple entries of the director from Sarajevo. Even if his films are often very well known, the man remains a mystery, quickly judged, badly understood because of long silences, out of their context quotes, or systematic attacks from different personalities. The goal of this book is to put back the declarations into the context, and to draw, thanks to anecdotes, small or big stories, a frame in several dimensions, and to give on Emir Kusturica a multiple gaze, even if it's sometimes contradictory, yet finally coherent.

The blue book - French sources
Kusturica, Emir - Director, actor and musician of bosnian origin, mostly known for his baroque flms on the Gypsies or the war in Yugoslavia, with musics by Goran Bregović.

The red book - Balkanic sources
Kusturica, Emir - Serbian director and producer, mostly known for his intellectual commitment and his radical thoughts in his films.

The white book - other sources
Kusturica, Emir - Yugoslav director, mostly known for having won twice the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival.

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Dossier de presse

Download the dossier de presse (in French) :


Conversation over the Balkans, Kusturica and yugoslav literature … with Babsi Jones

This interview-conversation was made by Italian journalist and writer Babsi Jones for the website Carmilla on line.

English translation by Pino.

Emir is beginning to feel distressed, November 9. Emir announces that he's willing to give up his salary, November 10. Emir wakes up later and later, he arrives on the set late in the evening and he extemporizes, November 17. The tension among the actors is peaking, Emir is doing nothing but sharpening it, November 19. Emir had promised he would cut the screenplay, but he keeps endlessly adding extra pages, November 24. Emir is nervous, he keeps saying he can't work faster than this, December 10. Emir is very depressed, the situation in Bosnia weighs on him, December 14. Emir is roaming the halls, mumbling that he has existential problems, January 11. Each time Emir goes out for a coffee we're afraid he'll never be back, January 26.

These are short excerpts from the hilarious journal that Pierre Spengler penned in 1993 during the shooting of what is still the greatest masterpiece in the history of Yugoslav cinema: Underground. Working with Kusturica, the genius born in 1954 in Sarajevo and brought up at Miloš Forman's school in Prague, is a nightmare for many people. I have met Kusturica three times. One of them was a press conference at the Anteo theater in Milan: the director, while forgetting to introduce the “Collateral Damage” tour of his No Smoking Orchestra, delighted his audience for more than an hour with long stories about swine feasting on old Trabants and tales of broken eggs. He was approaching the editing of his Super 8 Stories, a movie-documentary in Super 8 that didn't earn the success it deserved. Kusturica's thought often borders provocation; all the worst has been said about him, even that he worked for the KOS, the Yugoslav secret services; the foundation of his work, more unrealist than surrealist, is clearly epic but consistently worn away by sarcasm and farce; he remarks ironically that “it's like Shakespeare without Shakespeare”; the time-frame of each of his movies is non-existent, and in this counterfactual utopia the audience is forced to shift their attention from fiction to reality without understanding where dreams and illusion finish and where the documentary, as evidence, begins (low-brow evidence, as the director always recreates collective perspectives). Being the audience of Kusturica's mighty feature films entails entering a maze where the political gesture and symbolism melt into a tragic and picaresque carnival; mourning blends with farce in a pagan orgy; kitsch, used to brand the many seedy characters in the Yugoslav tangle, is a lifeboat as well: in contrast with cool(ness) and political correctness, kitsch is the token of the shady and the subversive. Kusturica is an unseizable director. A very useful book has been just published in France, for those willing to get closer to Kusturica's cinema while being sure to lose their way with fulfillment. Its title is “Le lexique subjectif d'Emir Kusturica” (L'Age D'Homme) and it was written by Matthieu Dhennin. “It's a multi-track biography of the Sarajevo-born director. His films are popular and widely awarded, but Emir Kusturica's personality is still considered a puzzle; he's judged too hastily, he's ill-understood on account of his extended periods of isolation or some strong statements, misrepresented and read out of context, often becoming a target of steady attacks by cultural celebrities with an anti-Serb itch to scratch (think of Bernard-Henri Lévy or Finkelkraut who acknowledge explicitly that they have never watched Underground, but accuse him of being “a new Céline lined up with the Nazis”), we know too little about Emir Kusturica.” So says the author. Dhennin has known the director for years and runs the website. His idea was to assemble a book that portrays – by way of anecdotes, and narrations great and small – a three-dimensional picture of the ex-Yugoslav director, a definitely conflicting picture, but a thorough one. A successful undertaking, in my opinion, pushing on beyond Emir Kusturica's cinema and music: the book is a short but must-have guide to ”ex-Yugoslavia” and the Balkans, helping the reader piece together the difficult cultural and political mosaic of a country that was “once upon a time”, of a midland that never set free from colonization by the empires. From the issue of Kosovo and Peter Handke to the Yugoslav clutter that stirs Tito's nostalgics, “Lexique” offers the reader a range of possible paths and prospective further investigations.


La revue du cinéma

Jean-Max Méjean's article :


Article in French newspaper Ouest-France, 20 july 2006, by Loïc Tissot.

La Voix du Nord

Article in French newspaper La Voix du Nord (edition “Loos-Haubourdin-Les Weppes”), 14 october 2006, by Marie-Catherine Nicodème.

L'Hebdo de Charente-Maritime

Article in French newspaper L'Hebdo de Charente-Maritime, 5 october 2006, by Michel Teodosijević.

Le Courrier des Balkans

Article on the website Le courrier des Balkans, 6 december 2006, by Jean-Arnault Dérens.

Le lexique fait le tour, de manière intelligente, complète et posée, de l’univers kusturicien, depuis la musique, le monde rrom, le football (Diego Maradona) et les admirations cinéphiliques, pas toujours payées de retour, comme dans le cas de Francis-Ford Coppola.

Dans les références musicales, des entrées sont ainsi consacrées à Guca, au Kocanski Orkestar, ainsi, bien sûr, qu’au No Smoking Orchestra.

Le livre ne fait l’impasse sur aucun sujet qui fâche, évoquant les ennemis déclarés du cinéaste, d’Andrej Nikolaidis à Alain Finkielkraut (auteur d’un fameuse et virulente critique d’Underground dans Le Monde, alors qu’il n’avait pas vu le film), mais aussi les amitiés rompues, d’Abdulah Sidran à Goran Bregovic, en passant par Goran Paskaljevic.

Matthieu Dhennin trouve des mots fort justes pour évoquer la relation d’Emir Kusturica à Sarajevo et à la Bosnie. Aussi éloigné du dythirambe que du réquisitoire, ce livre constitue donc une des meilleures manières possibles de faire le point sur notre propre perception de l’oeuvre protéïforme de « l’émir du Costa Rica » (ainsi se présenta E.K. lors de sa première venue à Cannes, en 1985, quand il reçut la Palme d’or pour Papa est en voyage d’affaires).