An Inuit hunter races his sled home with a fresh-caught halibut. This fish pervades the entire film, in real and imaginary form. Meanwhile, Axel tags fish in New York as a naturalist's gopher. He's happy there, but a messenger arrives to bring him to Arizona for his uncle's wedding. It's a ruse to get Axel into the family business. In Arizona, Axel meets two odd women: vivacious, needy, and plagued by neuroses and familial discord. He gets romantically involved with one, while the other, rich but depressed, plays accordion tunes to a gaggle of pet turtles…
In 1988, Emir was invited to the USA by Miloš Forman to teach at the Columbia University in New York. Among his students, there was David Atkins who gave him in 1991 the scenario of a strange film, which name often changed, American dreamers, Arizona Eskimo, the Arrowtooth waltz then Arizona Dream, depending on the numerous rewritings of the script by Emir Kusturica. But meanwhile, the events go dramatically faster and the civil war bursts in Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, bosniak forces get into the family flat of the Kusturicas and take the Prizes Emir has won. He must stop the shooting to go and help his parents to find refuge in Montenegro ; his father will die a few months later of a heart attack. For Emir, the death of his father matched with the death of Yugoslavia. This death will deeply affect him, and the shooting of Arizona Dream will also be strongly affected.
The film was shot in the United States, produced by UGC and should have been distributed by Warner, but the film was not entitled to a single theatre in the United States ! … This is quite understandable, considering the violent local critics the film received, such as : ”All of it is has odd and badly acted boron, guaranteed to clear theatres in record time.” - Boxoffice Magazine
An incredible 12 minutes sequence-shot was supposed to finish the film, but judged too dark by the producers, it was removed from the final cut.
Paul Leger is a great fan of cinema: his favorite films are : North by Northwest (1959) by Alfred Hitchcock, The Godfather: Part II (1974) by Francis Ford Coppola and Raging Bull (1980) by Martin Scorcese.
The film was mainly shot in Douglas (Arizona), as well as in New York and in Alaska, reaching thus the three corners of the american territory. The film is, by the way, articulated on triangles : Axel is shared between the love for Grace and for Elaine.
Emir Kusturica : ”Isn't this image of a fish swimming in a deserted architecture, finally (…) the image of what we are ? Dumb fishes, unable to do anything essential for their existence… ”
Emir Kusturica : ”The America I love is like the cinema it does not produce anymore.”
The film was shot in LC Concept digital sound. It is the cinema max Linder in Paris which was the French theatre to show the most films in LC Concept. The cinema preserves the material as well as some discs, and shows regularly, at the annual festival “the max Linder makes its Cineclub”, Arizona Dream in this format now disappeared. Other theatres were also equipped with LC Concept in Paris : Gaumont Grand Ecran Italie, UGC Triumphs, UGC Normandy, Forum Horizon…
Unfortunately, a bad marketing policy (the process, according to its inventors, was firstly intended for the “large prestige theatres”), combined with a stealing of the patent by American system DTS in 1993, the whole followed by a long trial which will prohibit for example the exploitation in France of Jurassic Park in DTS (shown in simple Dolby SR), will condemn the process which will be finally sold to the Americans.
”If you want to know one's soul, ask him what are his dreams… And you will have pity of those who are in the shit. ”
The film wasn't finished for the Cannes film festival of 1992, but the crew went to promote it. Of course, they also went to the Berlin festival where the film was in the official competition (see photo above), and then to the one of Belgrade (see the cover of Politika magazine).