27 September, 2010

Romanian Revolution Continues At NYFF

by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor

The revolution in Romanian cinema that began several years ago with the astonishingly original films THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU (2005), 12:08 EAST OF BUCHAREST (2006) and 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS (2007), continues to flex its muscle, with a strong showing at the New York Film Festival, which opened this past weekend.

Three extraordinary films from Romania will be featured at the Festival, New York's most prestigious film event. AURORA, the latest effort from director Cristi Puiu (THE DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU)is a devastating character study of an engineer whose life has spun out of control. Casting himself in the demanding lead role, Puiu plunges the viewer into the shadowy world of the streets of Bucharest, as his character encounters former colleagues, a mistress, his mother, and his former in-laws, all the while harboring a secret plan designed to restore order to the whole. Using the filmic language of long takes and close ups, the director brings us into a universe of secrets and lies, an allegory for a country still trying to define itself after decades of political repression. The film, at three hours long, moves along with glacial precision, but resonates as realism in minute detail.

TUESDAY, AFTER CHRISTMAS by director Radu Muntean seems to have a lighter tone, but is equally devastating. A man must choose between his wife of ten years and his mistress in this powerfully acted meditation on the temptations and costs of adultery. Are these characters stand-ins for the Romanian population as a whole, who have been fed unfulfilled promises and then have been cheated on by manipulative politicians and greedy corporate kings? This intimate film plays its trio of actors like a finely tuned chamber orchestra, exposing the wounds of its characters in excruciatingly intimate detail. The director, whose previous films THE PAPER WILL BE BLUE and SUMMER HOLIDAY, is emerging as one of Eastern Europe's most distinctive voices.

As a special event, the Festival is also featuring the premiere of an astonishing documentary essay film that speaks to the heart of the current zeitgeist of its country. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU by Andrei Ujica is an astonishing work of the sociopolitical imagination as it imagines in striking visual terms the rise and fall of the controversial Romanian dictator, whose shadow continues to haunt a contemporary Romanian finding new definitions and its place in the world. Romanian cinema, to coin a phrase, is still on a roll......

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