The music itself is mesmerizing, and there is some footage here that is most compelling. Yet at times it all seems like an extremely lengthy longform music video.
Though the songs are often accompanied by English subtitles, which translate the lyrics, the settings are not identified, leaving the audience to guess at the film's whereabouts as it bounces around the globe.
But the opening moments - a Gypsy band traveling through the desert, at first thirsting for and then sharing the last drops of water in their canteens, and ultimately celebrating the discovery of a well - pull us in quickly, and have us yearning for more.
Beautifully shot, with intimate detail given to the Gypsy musicians who play their various instruments and those around them who sing and dance, the film is at its best in spirited celebration, though filmmaker Tony Gatlif also appreciates their sardonic commentary and cries of lamentation. There are also some wonderful moments when Gatlif takes an opportunity to comment on the scene visually, as when his camera strays from the camp and captures a moment of nature to coincide with a song.
In those moments, "Latcho Drom" becomes poetic and lyrical and is a joyous, fulfilling experience. Yet the film still feels woefully underdeveloped and under-explained. More information about these people and the origins of their music and lifestyle would have made the experience more satisfying.
As it is, the film provides enjoyable music and entertaining visuals . . . but it's more in the "Koyaanisqatsi" and "Baraka" vein than a true documentary.
"Latcho Drom" is not rated but would probably receive a G; there is nothing offensive.