Friday, November 02, 2007

Penultimate Romanian Film

The Romanian film festival here is drawing to a close, and tonight's California Dreamin' (endless) will be the last screening. I've now managed to attend three, Stuff and Dough, The Paper Will Be Blue, and then last night's Occident.
Occident was, perhaps, my favorite of the three. It presents three intertwined narratives (or was it four? I'm losing track) about urban Romanians in the very recent past... set right around 2000. The characters are likeable, if often foolish, and all are trying to come to terms with post-revolution Romania. Some are determined to leave, some think it's better to stay, and one has left and returned.
I admit to a weakness for tales told in this multiple-story manner; I have always liked, for example, Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, which combines changes of narrator and progression of time to provide an added, surprising dimension to novels which are already rich and subtle in themselves. Robertson Davies' several trilogies also work somewhat in this manner, although they are not designed as quite such puzzles. Occident weaves its interlocking stories and perspectives quite well for a feature-length film, and conveys the stories with a charming sense of humor while nonetheless dealing with some sad events and intense emotions, but here and there I did wonder whether bits of information got lost on the cutting-room floor.
Altogether, it is decidedly to be recommended.

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Anonymous Dirk said...

I’ll put Occident on our Netflicks list. Let me point out another terrific Romanian film, The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Directed by Cristi Puiu. It’s a long movie in which all that happens is that a middle-aged drunk falls ill, and with the help of his neighbors goes by ambulance and is shifted for bureaucratic reason form one hospital to another. That does not explain why it is so good, so hypnotic and satisfying to watch. It is in the acting and filming, the gritty but not humorless quality of the characters. This is realism rising to lyricism. It won big prize at Cannes and some other prizes.

November 05, 2007 8:11 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

John also mentioned Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which I gather the festival wasn't able to get due to its intense celebrity. Cristi Puiu directed Stuff and Dough, which I didn't care for especially, but that was his first feature film and even though I wasn't that crazy about it, it was well done. I'll look forward to seeing Lazarescu one of these days.

November 06, 2007 1:29 AM  

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