Posts Tagged ‘Romanian New Wave’

Alice T. (2018) **** Locarno International Film Festival 2018

Dir: Radu Muntean |  Drama | Romania | 105′

Romanian New Wave director Radu Muntean follows his existential thriller One Floor Below (2015) with a similarly slow-burning contemporary portrait of narcissism and disenchanted Bucharest youth premiering at Locarno Film Festival 2018.

Drawing comparison with Uli Edel’s Christiane F, teenage Alice T is pretty, petulant and out of control. Adopted as a baby from a Rumanian orphanage she is constantly finding ways to market herself for personal empowerment and spends her directionless days hanging out with mindless friends, taking selfies, a cigarette casually in her hand. Their focus is on boys and soon Alice is pregnant, sparking a furious row with her adoptive mother (Mihaela Sirbu from Aferim!) who suffered to have her own kids but now accepts her daughter’s right to have the baby. Spurred on by this petty victory against her mother, Alice at first feels more in control; she has a weapon against her mother, a new identity and a mission to accomplish – that of motherhood. Her mother warms to the pregnancy and gradually the family are on board supporting her too. Alice finally feels she’s got somewhere with her life, but soon becomes bored with the idea of having a baby which may take the focus off number one.

Andra Guti is really impressive in her debut as Alice and Muntean, writing with two regular male collaborators (who are all fathers), keeps his distance from his anti-heroine as the observational story gradually unspools. What starts as a sad reflection on modern womanhood and the loss of feminine could have transformed into something warmer and more mature on Alice’s part. But that’s not the point. And soon her abusive narcissism resurfaces as she casts around for more attention, another power fix. This transformation is so subtle it takes a while to fully take on board the true depth of Alice’s self-centredness as the prime focus of her mother’s doting and undivided attention, calling to mind that same dedication seen by the mother in fellow Romanian Calin Peter Netzer’s 2013 drama Child’s Pose.

This female centric storyline highlights the focus on domestic trivia where low level issues form the centre of everyday conversations. The camera hangs over these scenes to the point of tedium, emphasising the sheer vacuousness of Alice’s existence. There are no hopes or dreams for anything outside this narrow domain. And Alice is not encouraged to aspire but shielded from any kind of challenge, so she is unable to learn by her mistakes on a road to nowhere. Her bad reports at school are openly questioned by her mother in the face of authority, pointing to a system where children can do no wrong, but will never really amount to anything. After the pregnancy is confirmed, her mother decides that her daughter will take some time out for the pregnancy, but this only leaves more of a vacuum in the teenager’s feckless existence and she needs to be the centre of attention.

Tudor Lucaciu’s camera pictures the scene around Bucharest and the coast in master shots and long takes showing how Alice can be anything to anybody as she casts her spell over strangers and acquaintances alike. The male characters remain unexplored and are mostly seen as bemused outsiders just trying to get on with their lives. And the finale comes as a fait accompli leaving Alice just as bewildered and lost as she must have felt back in that orphanage, and even less sure of herself than she was at the start. This is a drama that will make your blood boil. MT

IN COMPETITION | LOCARNO FILM FESTIVAL 1-11 AUGUST 2018 | Due to release next year in the UK

The Japanese Dog (2013) – Edinburgh Film Festival 2014


Director: Tudor Cristian Jurgiu

Cast: Victor Rebenguic, Serban Pavlu, Kana Hashimoto, Laurentiu Lazar

85min  Romanian with English Subs    Drama

Romanian cinema is remarkable in its ability to take the rough with the smooth and often with humour. Here in his impressive debut feature (set in his childhood village) Tudor Cristian Jurgiu gradually builds a visual narrative of  the difficulties faced by an elderly man following the floods that affected the east of the country in 2010.  Slow, intimate and poetic in feel but always with its feet firmly on the ground, (no pun intended) this Romanian New Wave piece is upbeat and positive, for the most part.

Costache is played by the stoical and melancholic Victor Rebenguic (Medal of Honour), a strong man exuding integrity and not without hope, who has just lost everything including his wife, Maria.  Coping (barely) with the tragedy, his energy is spent clearing up and attempting to make a home of the new place he’s been given and dealing with the necessary authorities in the village. And this wouldn’t be Romania without the trademark red-tape that always rears its head at some point.  But that’s not his only worry. He’s concerned that his son (Serban Pavlu) will not make it for the funeral. But he does, with his Japanese wife , Hiroku (Kana Hashimoto) and a strange robot that looks like a dog – and talks.

010 - The Japanese Dog

As son and father re-connect, a deepening relationship develops that brings its own challenges. Andrei Butica’s (Child’s Pose) glorious but simple visuals convey the essence of the countryside and  the locals’ attachment to this bucolic way of life.  The humour often lies in the ‘lost in translation’ moments between Costache, his grandson and the Japanese dog.  MT

THE JAPANESE DOG’s Victor Rebenguic, has been an actor since 1957.





When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (2013) 10th Romanian Film Festival in London 2013


Director/writer: Corneliu Porumboiu

Diana Avramut, Mihaela Sirbu, Alexandru Papadopol

89min   Romanian with English subtitles   Drama

Do directors always cast women they fancy in their films?.  Of course they do, and preferably those they can impress with their finely -tuned intellect. But they try not to get too involved until the end of the shot.

Here director Paul (Bogdan Dumitrache – Child’s Pose) is so taken and obsessed with his lead that delays proceedings film-wise (feigning illness – an ulcer) in order to clinch a romantic deal with Alina (Diana Avramut).  So, a simple love story gains banal intricacy as is dissected to within an inch of its life as every single subtle nuance of the script is analysed in minute detail between the two: dinner, differing World cuisines, language and finally her body come under the same scrutiny of approach so he can spends as much time with Alina as possible, during the lengthy filming project –  even forcing her (albeit fully-clothed) to act out shower scenes in excruciating detail, over-intellectualising every element of life in the country, through cinema.  This is meta cinema but the approach feels stifling, ponderous; constricting any freedom of movement and Paul’s haunched figure chain smokes through the entire feature – so clearly evolution has moved a long way.  And what has Alina learnt in drama school having neither heard of Antonioni or Monica Vitti. Evidently, these are sophisticated times in Bucharest.

Tudor Circea confines his camera to long-take static shots through small openings; doorways; car interiors or dinner tables always centring on the characters and their lengthy dialogues. Very similar in style to his previous feature, Police, Adjective this metaphysical style piece won’t appeal to all audiences but nevertheless masterfully explores the connection between truth in (male/female) relationships and reality in Romanian cinema.  Keats or even Karl Popper would have a field day but possibly they’d be happier in a field. MT




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