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Name: Dan Sallitt
Location: New York, New York, United States

Friday, November 30, 2007

Romanian Film Festival: Tribeca Cinemas, through December 2, 2007

This is the second year that the Romanian Cultural Institute has sponsored a Romanian film festival at the Tribeca Cinemas, and both times I didn't find out about it until it was right on top of me. So maybe you don't know about it either.

There's a very juicy item in this program: Lucian Pintilie's first feature Reconstruction (or Reenactment) (1968), screening Sunday at 7:30 pm. I've never had an opportunity to see any of Pintilie's work before The Oak (1992) - and actually there wasn't that much work from him before that, as he sat out most of the Ceaucescu regime in Paris. I consider Pintilie a major dude - I'm an especially big fan of his An Unforgettable Summer (1994) - and I'll be there Sunday night with bells on.

If you're feeling adventurous, you might also check out Mircea Daneliuc's Jacob (1988) on Saturday at 12:30 pm. Daneliuc has talent, but I'm not sure yet how much: I rather liked his Mike Test (1980), was less excited about The Conjugal Bed (1993).

We've already missed the festival screening of Cristian Mungiu's Palme d'Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, but IFC has picked that up for American theatrical distribution. However, the program includes Mungiu's previous feature Occident (2002), screening on Sunday at 1 pm, and a collection of his short films, screening on Friday at 6 pm and Saturday at 8 pm. I had both good and bad feelings about 4 Months, but I'm curious to learn more about the guy.

The festival is also an opportunity to catch the late Cristian Nemescu's California Dreamin', which won the Un Certain Regard award at Cannes this year, on Friday at 8 pm and Saturday at 3 pm. The festival is screening the "Endless" (a mistranslation of "unfinished") 155-minute version, with Nemescu did not live to finish editing; word on the street is that the film will eventually circulate in a version shortened by Nemescu's collaborators, but purists may want to grab this opportunity. Here's what I wrote about the film in my Toronto wrapup at Senses of Cinema:

"Twenty nine-year-old Romanian director Cristian Nemescu was killed in a car accident during the editing of his feature debut California Dreamin'. His post-production team finished his rough cut, titled California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit), and screened it at Cannes, where it won the Un Certain Regard award. An ambitious farce about an American captain (Armand Assante) and his troops stranded in a small Romanian town by a stubborn, corrupt railway chief (Razvan Vasilescu) during the Kosovo conflict, Dreamin’ is practically an homage to Billy Wilder’s sprawling comedies, with the bewildered Americans at the mercy of the Romanians’ criss-crossing objectives, including the political maneuvering of the mayor (Ion Sapdaru) and the romantic schemes of the railway chief’s daughter (Maria Dinulescu). Nemescu and his co-writers Catherine Linstrum and Tudor Voican successfully mimic Wilder’s flair for topical reference and his vision of a world driven by self-interest. And, truth be told, Nemescu’s filmmaking skills are considerably more supple than Wilder’s: he’s a confident action director, has a great eye, handles erotic scenes with enthusiasm and, above all, has an instinct for how to use naturalism as a counterbalance to farce. Dreamin’ should have been, and probably would have been, much shorter than 155 minutes: as it stands, it assembles so much digressive material that the story’s momentum is weakened. While less than a complete success, the existing cut is an amazing calling card for a director who might have been more than a footnote to film history had he lived a few more months."



Blogger Daniel said...

I was just talking to someone about how I accidentally found out about this festival only a day ago. Too late for me, this weekend is jam-packed enough as it is with films. Who is in charge this series' PR? I feel like no one knows about it...

November 30, 2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Seems to me that more and more important films show up in NYC at these small, underpublicized national or regional festivals. (Which I guess is a sign of the health of international cinema right now. It used to be that a few familiar countries would supply most of the top-notch new movies each year: now the playing field is much more level, and great work is coming from all directions.) Even if a fest places notices or ads in the Voice or the Times, that's still very little advance warning for film buffs with busy viewing schedules. The only real solution is to get on the organization's email list, discard a year's worth of announcements for ethnic dance mixers, and pounce on the annnual valuable mailing.

November 30, 2007 2:49 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Dan--that early Pintilie seems vital. (Why oh why must it vie with Jerzy Skolimowski as well as my two final papers?) Perhaps I'll see you there.

November 30, 2007 4:41 PM  
Blogger Eric M. said...

I thought you saw "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days," Dan. I got to see it at the NYFF, and was quietly blown away. I was able to get one ticket for this tomorrow night-The Great Communist Bank Robbery. Tribeca sends me their weekly emails, or I never would have heard about it.

I wouldn't have minded seeing California Dreamin' again, but it was all sold out already. I wonder if that will get some kind of US release, through Tartan or something.

December 1, 2007 6:15 PM  
Blogger Eric M. said...

And as a comment on the California Dreamin' running time-I really didn't find anything wrong with it at all. Granted it has been a few months since I saw it, so I do not have it detailed in my head, but I really couldn't think of anything I would want to omit from it. I do kind of get the feeling that I liked the movie a bit more than you, though, but did you find it overlong or too packed?

December 2, 2007 3:25 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Eric - I was surprised to see The Great Communist Bank Robbery pop up on your blog. How did you like it? I guess I need to stop hitting the Delete key on those Tribeca emails, which I get in triplicate.

It wasn't that I thought some of the scenes in California Dreamin' were weak and needed to be cut. I just thought that it was the kind of movie that propels itself on plot energy, and that in its current state it's exceedingly relaxed and digressive. I didn't learn until after the screening that Nemescu didn't live long enough to deliver a final cut.

The last official word I heard was that Dreamin' would not be cut, but a friend of mine who has become friendly with people from the production thinks that a shortened version will eventually turn up here.

December 4, 2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Eric M. said...

Yeah, I've been very behind with my reviews. I knew I wanted to see at least one of the Romanian films-and since I had to work all day Saturday and most of Sunday, the only thing that I could make was "Great Communist Bank Robbery." Have you read the background of what happened, because it really is interesting stuff-and an introduction before the screening revealed that a Romanian film maker (really can't remember the name) is making a drama based on the story. In the end there was nothing really different from most docs, but it was fairly enjoyable to watch. Doesn't hold a candle to the other Romanian films I've seen of late-and I already saw on the website for Film Forum the new film by Cristi Puiu is coming April 23rd. I'll be away at school during the dates its playing, but Ihope I can either get down here for a visit, or it'll hold over a few extra weeks.

December 5, 2007 4:07 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Reading about The Great Communist Bank Robbery (here's a link to a really interesting discussion), I realize that Romanians must have recognized Pintilie's 1968 Reconstruction as a reference to this real-life story. (The real-life suspects were induced to recreate their crime on camera for a 1960 film that was also called Reconstruction.)

I wasn't wild about Pintilie's film, by the way. The modernist gestures didn't leave any room for me to find an emotional connection to the filmmaking. On the other hand, Daneliuc's Jacob was very interesting, very dense (in an almost literary way) and challenging. And, though I didn't care for most of Mungiu's early work, his 2005 short Turkey Girl (part of an omnibus film called Lost and Found really appealed to me.

Can't wait to see Puiu's first feature when it comes to Film Forum.

December 5, 2007 11:04 AM  
Anonymous eric m said...

Oh, it IS his debut film. For some reason I thought it was his newest.

December 5, 2007 11:12 PM  

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