Tales From the NY Film Festival / part 4

Here Come the Romanians!

Tuesday, After Christmas


The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu

Have you seen any Romanian films lately? While Romanian films may have flown under the general public's radar here in America, Romanian filmmakers have been making some of the most creative and engaging films released worldwide for the last decade.  The Death of Mr. Lazarescu  directed by Cristi Puiu was the first one to catch my attention in 2005.  In it, a handheld camera quietly follows a 69 year old man's journey through the bureaucracy of the Romanian healthcare system, for 24 black humor filled fatal hours (you can quite often catch it now on IFC or Sundance Channel). Ever since then, it seems that every Romanian film I've seen is a winner - like there's something in the water over there.  Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days won the Palme D'Or at Cannes in 2007.  At last year's NY FIlm Fest we were introduced to Corneliu Porumboiu's Police Adjective.  Last spring I saw the hilarious, Happiest Girl in the World, directed by Radu Jude. 

Now at this year's NY FIlm Festival, we were treated to three more great films - Tuesday, After Christmas by Radu Muntean, Aurora by Cristi Puiu (after a 5 year absence), and The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu by Andrei Ujica.  

Cristi Puiu

Aurora, the much anticipated follow-up to Mr.Lazarescu, finds director/writer Cristi Puiu in the lead role as a sullen lone individual on a methodically creepy mission, of which we know very little for the 3 hour duration of the movie. The camerawork, (with a series of typically Romanian long takes), is is at times exquisite, or jarringly exquisite. The humor is black. The effect is mind numbing. 

Mirela Oprisor and Mimi Branescu from Tuesday, After Christmas
director Radu Muntean

Tuesday, After Christmas directed by Radu Muntean is a Romanian twist on the typically French concerns of a man, his mistress, and his wife. Again a series of long takes and superb acting move the narrative swiftly along. In town for the screening were the actors playing the cheating husband and spurned wife, who are indeed real life husband and wife (Mimi Branescu and Mirela Oprisor). 

director Andrei Ujica

Last but certainly not least, The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescudirected by Andrei Ujica is a documentary, so to speak.  It is compiled entirely of self serving documentary footage shot at the behest of the Romanian politician/ madman / dictator Nicolae Ceausescu during his reign from 1965 to 1989, that has been cleverly edited together by Andrei Ujica, and bookended by video footage of the trial of Ceausescu and his wife which ended in their executions (wikipedia Ceausescu here). There are state trips to Russia, China, North Korea, England and Disneyland. There are official visits to meat factories, games of volleyball, and speeches to the Romanian state assembly. There are no explanations of what we are seeing, only the footage - only the "facts". And yet you can't take your eyes off the everyday workings of this madman. And then, you are left to ponder that the aftermath of this oppressive state created by Nicolae Ceausescu, is what has led to the incredibly strong series of films we are now receiving  from these Romanian directors. 

Corneliu Porumboiu, director of Police Adjective in 2009
Cristian Mungiu, director of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days in 2007
Cristi Puiu, director of Aurora and Mr Lazarescu