November 12, 2017No Comments

Cinema, mon amour – Alexandru Belc – 2015

Cinema, mon amour exists because of Victor Purice, a cinema manager from a small Romanian city, whose resilience into keeping the venue alive during no-money times turns the man into local and later national legend. The film plays like a film school effort. The events chosen to be shown don’t necessarily provide for an exciting storytelling structure, nor the unrelenting handheld camera shakes ever tire, but all becomes secondary when faced with the simple fact. All it takes is one person.  

July 22, 2017No Comments

Breaking News, Iulia Rugină, 2017

Breaking News, a post-New Wave Romanian Cinema effort directed by Iulia Rugină, follows the story of one TV reporter who’s cameraman gets crushed to death during a live-event. Pushed by guilt and some at least awkward journalism standards from the part of his employees, our man has to do a story on his dead colleague and to transmit live from the funeral. Yes.

And, as if it’s not quirky enough, our man decides that the best way to make a meaningful TV show on his colleague is to contact the dead man’s teenage hormonally-infested daughter and work a meaningful relationship in front of our eyes. The arc of the story becomes clear. The daughter is wild & uncontrollable & hates her dead father for being an absent asshole -» the daughter accepts father was actually a nice guy and decides to talk for the camera. 

The film shows its director trying to make the cross into the social realism from her previous lighthearted films. Which despite all faults is commendable. The final frame is the film’s best. 

June 22, 2017No Comments

Planeta Petrila, Andrei Dăscălescu, 2017

Planeta Petrila, the Romanian documentary following the story of one local artist (Ion Barbu) and the mining complex whose derelict buildings he tries to save from demolition, is bound for glory. Unremembered is the last time that a story brought such wonderful balance between the colour of the artist’s work and the greys of the mine, his free spirit and the squared officials, between the petty financial interest of the local authorities and the genuine humanism of the the mine workers, between hope and despair. Ion Barbu the artist & Cătălin Cenușă the miner bring unending humor and life to screen but it really is Andrei Dăscălescu’s impeccable taste in mixing tons of visual and audio elements that creates the cinematic experience of the year, made in RO.

May 6, 2017No Comments

Ana, mon amour, Călin Peter Netzer, 2017

Călin Peter Netzer is thematically attracted to exploring relationships between age groups, family members and the things they inherit from one another. In his previous 20014 effort, The Child’s Pose, he follows the skirmish between a grown up man who fucked up and his mother who tries to cover up for him, only to make it worse. Handheld emotional mayhem that works to a certain degree. Strong casting and some sharp observation of conflict. Can’t say the same for last year’s Ana, mon amour which is a non-linear love story, going back and forth along the timeline of a couple’s high and low and which, for me, obliterates its credibility from the first 10 minutes, when while meeting the parents of the girl for the first time, the guy is forced to sleep in the same bed with the father of the family, wearing his pyjamas as well. It’s simply not a case of Romanian authenticity, it’s just a bad choice in trying to court it. 

And from that point on, it’s downhill for me. The form is one crazy hair day (for which it got a Berlin Bear artistic achievement). Editing rhythm shifting gears according to God knows what rules, peculiar hand-held camera, jump cuts, 180degree rule bending, all at unnerving speed, suggesting, of course, what else! the characters’ mood swings. Hilarious at times: the sex scene - we get to see some sperm flowing freely, wink wink unwanted baby soon to come. The male character’s hair meltdown adds to the phoniness and silliness of it all. 

Courage to be appreciated though. It is the films that strive to great extent to achieve crude realism that fuck it up the worse. Or best?

November 7, 2016No Comments

Câini, Bogdan Mirică, 2016

Opening shot resembles Lisandro Alonso’s opening shot from Los Muertos, slow traveling shot through nature to reveal some form of death. Nice. 

Shot at the beginning - in through open door towards outside - nice homage to The Searchers.

A mystery thriller that doesn’t deliver on the genre conventions and is more of an exploration on the difference between people and how the environment shapes behaviour and response. Feels frustrating precisely because it doesn’t respect genre while it uses it to propel action forward. 

Script has holes. Pushes the plausibility range of many beats: 

The old cop performs the weirdest and soon silliest criminalistic investigation on a human foot, wearing cleaning rubber gloves; 

He twists the hand of a low rank gangster to accept a mobile phone (no mobile phones allowed in the gang) which is scripted just to buzz at the wrong moment and give the gangster in. 

The main character lacks basic wits to drive his GF to the bus station because “it’s in the other direction”, a move that kills them both.

(Boy, am I envious over Mr. Mirică, or what? Good job, dude, anyway.)

November 1, 2016No Comments

Sieranevada, Cristi Puiu, 2016

FAMILY is the greatest and richest source of conflict in the story world. Conflicting people, set against each other all while being emotionally tied by the subterranean links between them - here’s the place to see the “heart in conflict with itself” at its fullest.

Two great examples come to mind of the “family genre” - T. Vinterberg’s “Festen” and Arnaud Desplechin’s “Un conte de Noël”. Powerful shit. 

With these two examples in mind, Cristi Puiu’s film feels as if it could have pushed for conflict and antagonise its characters two times fold while still being under the cover of realism, as Romanian families fight great fights between closed doors.

In its simplicity, the camera work and the limited space it creates and manages is very, very strong. 

The Romanian film to offer as a gift to non-RO friends. There you go, buddy, 3 hours of East European frenzy. Why is it called like that? Literally, just because. 

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