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Film review: Music is highlight of ‘Gypsy’

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GYPSY CARAVAN — ** 1/2 — Documentary feature about Gypsy culture and music; with English subtitles (European and Middle Eastern dialects); not rated, probable PG (slurs, mild vulgarity, mild profanity)

The obvious draw for some audiences in "Gypsy Caravan" will be an appearance by actor Johnny Depp. It turns out the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star befriended several Gypsy artists who appeared with him in the 2000 movie "The Man Who Cried" and became a huge fan of their music. He has even flown them out to Los Angeles to perform.

But be warned that the well-informed Depp shows up only briefly, in one of the film's numerous interview segments.

And frankly, the film needed fewer of those segments and more of the musical and dance performances. They are the better parts of this overlong but watchable documentary.

The title refers to a 2002 U.S. tour by five performing groups. The artists on the tour include what is traditionally thought of as Gypsy music —such as the Romanian ensembles Fanfare Ciocarlia and Taraf de Haidouks. But also on the tour are an Indian song-and-dance troupe and Spanish flamenco performers.

Filmmaker Jasmine Dellal and award-winning cinematographers Albert Maysles and Alain de Halleux follow the artists throughout the tour and also look at their private lives.

Dellal has explored some of this material before, in the 1999 documentary "American Gypsy: A Stranger in Everybody's Land." That film was better focused than this one.

And while the variety of performing styles is refreshing and the music is lively, the interviews are a little repetitive. One exception is veteran Romanian singer Esma Redzepova, a fascinating subject who might be worth her own movie.

"Gypsy Caravan" is not rated but would probably receive a PG for use of racial and ethnic slurs, some mildly suggestive language and dance moves, and scattered mild profanity (religiously based). Running time: 110 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com