Always a good call to open your movie with “The Passenger” by Iggy Pop. I lost track of the relationships and double-crosses, because I think all the cops are dirty and spying on each other… or rather, it’s not hard to follow while watching, but with the state of everything, I’ve lost track a month later. Story told in named chapters, out of order.
Our main dude is Cristi, with conspirator Gilda and boss Magda. The conspirators’ whistling language (and Cristi’s Old-Mark-Wahlberg look and performance) mostly serves to add notes of absurd humor, so this doesn’t turn into another grim tale of Romanian society/government corruption like Graduation.
Two dirty cops:
Sharp-looking and pleasurable, filled with guns, whistling, hidden cameras, vinyl records, movie theaters – after 12:08 and Metabolism and Infinite Football, I now have no idea what to expect from this guy.
I keep watching Porumboiu films because of my blind trust in the Cinema Scope critics – maybe one day his movies will click into place. At least they are always unusual, and always short, and I am always up for a short, unusual movie, so dude has got my number, even if I haven’t got his.
The man who was once injured playing football and has since decided that it wasn’t an issue of personal violence but of the game’s very structure, and has devoted years to devising alternatives, is a family friend of the director I think, and we’re not encouraged to write him off as a crank necessarily, but to pay attention to his ideas. Although it’s hard when he’s interviewed during his day job by a woman he completely can’t help, the movie briefly becoming a parody of failed bureaucracy, then he carries on “I feel a bit like those heroes. I’m here, filing documents, but in my double life I revolutionise sport.” He removes the right-angles from the playing field, then devises defense/offense zones so fewer players can end up in the same spot – the whole thing seems a bit silly, then gets kinda beautiful with its utopian philosophy at the end.
Almost the entire movie is a film director (Bogdan Dumitrache of Sieranevada) having conversations, rehearsals and affairs with his lead actress (Diana Avramut). He fakes a stomach illness, claims he had it checked by a doctor, and his producer (Mihaela Sirbu of Aferim!) has his cover story carefully verified, either to catch him in the lie or, as she says, because of picky insurance demands. Another filmmaker (Alexandru Papadopol of Toni Erdmann) pops into a dinner chat, possibly representing a future job for the actress. This is practically all that happens, and it ends abruptly – so why is it a movie? I get the self-reflexive talk about long takes and film cartridge capacity in a 35mm movie composed entirely of long takes, and after all the film-vs-video talk, video gets finally represented in the form of a colonoscopy DVD. After two long scenes where the director tries to convince the actress that a newly written nude scene is dramatically necessary and she goes over the blocking with him to verify that this is properly motivated, our movie finally shows her gratuitously topless. All this is worth a few meta-chuckles – surely I got more out of it than 12:08 East of Bucharest, and if the whole thing feels slightly pointless and the conversations go on for too long, that’s probably intentional too, for reasons I don’t feel like researching at the moment.
Another drag of a Romanian movie making some sort of opaque political statement, this one by 50 Under 50 filmmaker Porumboiu. Won a couple of awards at Cannes the year before 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days had everyone talking about Romania.
A TV studio cameraman says handheld camera is “the new thing” until the presenter tells him “put it on the tripod before I whop you with it!” That might be Porumboiu’s thoughts on the matter, since his film is shot with locked-down cameras, drab framings through doorways. The program within the film is portrayed as pretty half-assed, with focus problems, making the uninteresting-looking main feature look more competent by comparison. Indiewire says the compositions are “elegant” and “lovely,” so they saw something I didn’t.
12:08 is what time president Ceausescu fled the capital by helicopter on 12/22/1989. On the anniversary, TV call-in host Virgil Jderescu invites a couple of guests (beardy prof Manescu and old man Piscoci) to discuss whether their small town participated in the revolution or simply followed it, defined as whether there were people in the square before or after 12:08. No serious conclusions are drawn, and at the end everyone shuts up and watches snow fall.
Jay Kuehner in Cinema Scope:
This quietly bravura set-piece manages to be narratively torpid and aesthetically flat, but nevertheless conceptually rich; it’s a sublime metaphor for the uses of history, how people make it as much as it makes people, and how received narratives often entail multiple and conflicting views. .. That Porumboiu stages the “action” on live television is surely not coincidental, as impromptu broadcasts from the seized television stations relayed the progress of the revolution, up to and including Ceausescu and his wife’s bloody end.
AV Club says the points are “whether a revolution can happen if nobody risks anything, and whether the long memories of small-town stalwarts can be both a blessing and a curse.”